Iraq wants stable ties with Iran: Maliki




Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki says having “good and stable relations” with the Islamic Republic of Iran is in Baghdad's interest.“Iran is a neighboring country and we have historic ties and borders that stretch for 1,300 to 1,400 kilometers,” Maliki said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“Of course it's in our interest to have good and stable relations with them,” he added.

Maliki also ruled out the continuation of the U.S. occupation of Iraq past 2011, and said when the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) “expires on December 31, 2011, the last American soldier will leave Iraq. The last American soldier will leave Iraq” as agreed, adding, “This agreement is not subject to extension, not subject to alteration. It is sealed.”

The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the country was in possession of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), Press TV reported.According to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored, over one million Iraqis have been killed since then.The Iraqi Prime Minister explained that the SOFA is “not subject to extension, except if the new government with Parliament's approval wanted to reach a new agreement with America, or another country.”

After eight months of political deadlock, Iraq's main factions recently reached a power-sharing deal and agreed to form a national unity government.The deal on top government posts brings together Shias, Sunnis and Kurds in an arrangement similar to the previous Iraqi government, which can help prevent religious or ethnic conflict in the country.

According to the agreement, Iraq's incumbent prime minister's alliance will stay in office for another term, while Jalal Talabani from the Kurdish alliance will remain president.Iraqi military intelligence have laughed off Prime Minister Maliki’s assertion in a recent interview that there would be no U.S. troops in Iraq after the end of 2011, AHN reported.

The Journal cited the prime minister as stating, “The country’s security forces were capable of confronting any remaining threats to Iraq’s security, sovereignty and unity.”A senior Iraqi military intelligence officer called the statements from the prime minister in “variance with reality.”

Speaking to All Headline News on condition of anonymity, the officer said, “Iraq’s military and security forces are not, on their own, capable of fending off Iraq’s internal, nor external threats.”The officer said that in spring 2012, the U.S. troops will be in Iraq but the questions are: “how many, to do what, for how long, with answers dependent on what constitutes a troop and whether the road map now being put forward is being followed in squaring necessary political circles.”

On the country’s external alliances, the officer stated, “Iraq’s foreign alignments remain open.” The officer further noted “even feasibility of an alignment with Iran,” cannot be ruled out if the present trend is allowed to continue.Asked to comment on Maliki’s statement that his government had co-opted anti-American leaders such as the one associated with Moqtada al-Sadr, the intelligence officer said, “We know how this worked and through whom”.

“The Sadrist current is moving in a satisfactory direction of taking part in the government, renouncing violence and abandoning military activity and we welcome it,” Maliki noted, adding “ Our brothers on the other side, in the Iraqiya slate (of Ayad Allawi) also have an orientation. It too had people with activities, actions and resistance. They also have come and joined the government and will be committed. As a result, this will be reflected in (better) security and stability.”

The intelligence officer cautioned both Iraqi and American officials to concentrate on letting the Iraqi prime minister reach out to the White House with an honest assessment of on-ground situations.The officer called for a continuous presence of a large contingent of U.S. soldiers in the North, warning that, “a civil war along the trigger line will commence right at the point of 4th ID withdrawal,” as there is simmering tension between Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and smaller ethnic groups.

The senior Iraqi military officer welcomed the personal interest of President Barack Obama and the readiness of the White House to help when requested, but warned Iraqi government not to take things such as the continued presence of U.S. troops for granted.The officer minced no words, advising Baghdad to be clear in its requests to the White House for help in the national efforts for democracy building, avoiding the civil war as militias wait on the sidelines and evolving a new international equation for foreign relations of Iraqi foreign policy.

The Tehran Times Photo: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki (Max Becherer/The Wall Street Journal)

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