Potential Iran-Iraq Deal Worries West, Pressures Turkey

By: Nidal al-Laythi & Karim Abd Zayer  – AL MONITOR – 4.10.2012– Sources close to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki revealed yesterday [Oct. 3] that Maliki asked Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, whom he met yesterday in Baghdad, for more time to respond to Iran’s offer to conclude a military and security agreement with Iraq.

Sources in the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki say Turkish violations of Iraqi airspace have prompted consideration of a strategic partnership with Iran, Azzaman reports. But a close associate of Maliki says Iran is not the “first choice,” and expects the US to use its influence to ease tensions with Turkey.

Publisher: Azzaman (Iraq) – Original Title: Maliki Uses Security Agreement with Tehran as Threat if Washington does not Stop Turkish Shelling

Author: Nidal al-Laythi & Karim Abd Zayer

Maliki wants to wait until the United States’ position on the violations on the part of Turkish aircraft becomes clear.

Turkish aircraft violated Iraqi airspace to bomb [Kurdistan Workers’ Party [PKK] camps in remote areas in northern Iraq, which are part of the Kurdistan region, where Turkish forces move in accordance with a formal agreement between Baghdad and Ankara, ratified by the former regime in the early 1980s and renewed by the Iraqi government later on.

Relations with Turkey worsened after Maliki’s government held it responsible for the protection of fugitive vice President Tariq al-Hashemi, who was sentenced to death in Baghdad [for his alleged role in a string of assassinations]. Izzat al-Shabandar, MP for The State of Law Coalition and a close associate of Maliki, told Azzaman that the Iraqi government expects the US administration to use its influence over Turkey to stop the violation of Iraqi sovereignty in accordance with the security agreement concluded between the two countries.

According to observers, the US-Iraqi strategic agreement will be dead in the event of any military and security agreement [Baghdad reaches] with Iran. Shabandar added: “We expect Washington to use its influence to prevent Turkey from violating Iraqi airspace, and we want to know the credibility of the United States’ commitment and the extent to which it [abides by] the security agreement with Iraq.” Shabandar continued: “Quite frankly, Iran is not our first choice, and we hope that Americans and Europeans do not corner Iraq.”

Vahidi is the first Iranian defense minister to visit Iraq, but Shabandar said that the visit was programmed and not linked to the US’ request from Iraq to prevent Iranian aircraft from transferring supplies to Syria through Iraqi airspace, adding, however, that this issue was on the agenda of the Iranian minister.  The Iraqi government called on parliament yesterday to cancel or abstain from extending the agreement signed by the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein with Turkey and extended by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. This agreement allows Turkey to pursue PKK rebels up to a distance of 15 kilometers inside Iraqi territory. It also called on the parliament to abolish the Turkish military presence at Bamarni airport, which includes 50 military personnel and a number of armored vehicles found in Iraq since the days of the fighting between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, headed by Jalal Talabani, and Kurdistan Democratic Party, led by Massoud Barzani.

Turkish aircraft regularly bomb PKK camps inside Iraq in response to the infiltration of militants [who are crossing] the border with Iraq to carry out attacks against the Turkish army, security forces and border guards militia supported by the Turkish government.

For his part, Vahidi said that Iraq has a special place in the foreign, diplomatic and defense policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, according to Mehr News Agency.

He added that his visit to Iraq was aimed at studying defense agreements between the two countries, strengthening defense ties and exchanging views on regional and international issues. Maliki told Vahidi during their meeting that it was essential to seek bilateral cooperation with Tehran in order to establish security and stability in the region and to fight against terrorism. Shabandar said that Vahidi wants to explore the Iraqi situation and inform Baghdad of Iran’s discomfort at the prevention of its planes from transporting arms in support of the Syrian regime, in response to the US’ position [on Syria].

Shabandar, who is close to Maliki, said that the Iranian request will only be heeded in Iraq in line with the security agreement signed with the US. He criticized the idle US position regarding the Turkish air strikes on northern Iraqi villages. He added: We have multiple options and our position is independent,” stating that Iraq is ready to take new decisions with the help of  Iran. Shabandar revealed that Maliki’s visit to Moscow reflects this open-door position, and was also a message to the US. The Iraqi acting defense minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi said that Iraq was capable of defending its interests if necessary. For his part, Vahidi pointed to the need to activate the two military cooperation documents concluded between the two countries.He said that his visit to Iraq aimed at opening a new page in the defense relations between the two countries, pointing out that they have two military cooperation documents whose activation has been studied and that new topics had been raised.

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