Wednesday, August 11, 2004

The Daily Star - Editorial - The right moment to address crucial Iraq-Iran relations

The Daily Star - Editorial - The right moment to address crucial Iraq-Iran relations: "The right moment to address crucial Iraq-Iran relations

Thursday, August 12, 2004
In the midst of an escalating war of words, Iran has extended an invitation to interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to visit Tehran to defuse what has the potential to become a dangerous row. Accusations of Iranian involvement in the Iraqi insurgency are mounting, and the abduction of an Iranian diplomat by a group of Iraqi militants has served to increase tensions between the two countries and threatens to unravel an already delicate regional balance.

Iraq is increasingly faced with negotiating what seems to be an impossible high-wire act: balancing relations with its neighbors against the Mideast's tenuous political backdrop. Iraqis have recognized the value of maintaining and tending such alliances. Allawi recently completed an eight-nation regional tour in which he held talks with leaders of neighboring countries. But Iraq must go a step further to solidify good relations with Turkey and Iran. Just as a problem in the relationship with Turkey could shatter Iraq, a wrong turn in its relationship with Iran could cause Iraq to implode.

The delicate balance with Iran is frustrated by external factors. The Iranian political invasion of Iraq has coincided with the US-led invasion, resulting in friction, mishaps and sourness for both Iranians and Iraqis. But eventually the US occupation of Iraq will end, and Iraqis and Iranians will be left to negotiate among themselves.

So it is a sign of real political astuteness that Iranians have recognized the need to iron things out with Baghdad now. Allawi must also recognize that he cannot achieve stability in Iraq without cooperation with Iran. There are many possible grounds on which Iraq and Iran could forge better relations, ranging from a relationship based on a shared majority-Shiite culture to an alliance between two independent neighboring states. Between these two options lies the chasm where the Iraqi experiment can either come crashing down or the two states will find a political passage. What is certain is that Iran must take the government of President Ghazi al-Yawer and Allawi seriously, on the basis of their own merits. And Iraqis must recognize that their existence after the US leaves depends on good relations with their neighbors."


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