Or are U.S. troops the main obstacle to Iraq’s becoming a full-fledged client state of Iran? Or are U.S. troops in Iraq the main enabler of Iranian meddling in Syria and Lebanon, since they know the Americans will do nothing while they are tied up in Iraq? “Iran tells Iraq: U.S. troops are ‘main obstacle on the way to progress,'” by Ashraf Khalil for the Los Angeles Times, June 10 (thanks to Morgaan Sinclair):
BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki concluded a three-day visit to Iran after meeting Monday with Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who warned that the continued presence of U.S. troops was “the main obstacle on the way to progress and prosperity in Iraq.”
The session with Khamenei, Iran’s top religious and political authority, served to further highlight the delicate position of the Iraqi government — caught between the U.S. and Iran, each seeking to pull Iraq out of the other’s sphere of influence.
U.S. officials have long accused Shiite Muslim Iran of playing a negative role in the affairs of its neighbor to the west, which has had a Shiite-run government of its own in the wake of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein.
Khamenei, however, said Iraq’s “most important problem” wasn’t the still-active Sunni Arab insurgency or the reining in of Shiite militias, but rather the continued presence of “occupying troops.”
Khamenei and other Iranian politicians have repeatedly urged Maliki’s government not to sign a status of forces agreement being negotiated with the United States. The agreement would provide a legal framework for the continued presence of U.S. troops in Iraq after the United Nations mandate expires at the end of this year.
Iran accuses the United States of seeking to formalize a permanent domination of Iraq through the status of forces pact.
Washington alleges that Tehran is working to destabilize Iraq by supplying weapons to Shiite militias, a charge the Iranians deny. Maliki’s government is caught in the middle.
“Iran is accusing America, and America is accusing Iran,” said Mahmoud Othman, a veteran Kurdish politician and lawmaker in Iraq. “Nobody would want to be in Maliki’s shoes right now.”…