Ahmadinejad's Iraq Visit a Setback for U.S.
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
Could a U.S. pullout from Iraq force closer ties between Iraq and Iran? NPR senior news analyst Daniel Schorr says that might be the case as evidenced by the Iranian president's travels.
DANIEL SCHORR: The two-day visit of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Baghdad earlier this week was extraordinary in several ways and must be disquieting to the Bush Administration. Not only was it the first Iranian visit to Iraq since the bitter war they fought in the 1980s, in which a million were reportedly killed on both sides.
The staging - a red carpet, a band and a motorcade into town - was a stark contrast to President Bush's secretive helicopter visit to Baghdad. But perhaps most extraordinary of all was that the Iranian president, speaking in the presence of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, called for the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. He twitted Mr. Bush by saying, we have to ask those who visit secretly why they are doing so. And he turned away questions about infiltration of Iranian arms into Iraq.
This must be considered a major end-run around the United States in the struggle for influence in the region. The Bush Administration has tended to act as though the faltering Iraqi government was totally dependent on the U.S. Clearly, echoes of the American campaign debate with its constant talk of putting pressure on the Maliki government and discussing ideas for withdrawal of American troops have been heard in Baghdad, and Maliki has suddenly demonstrated that Iraq is not without other friends.
It's beginning to look as though a major beneficiary of the American invasion of Iraq is Iran. The United States did not go to war against Saddam Hussein in order five years later to see Iraqi and Iranian leaders exchanging kisses on their cheeks, or to have Iraqi officials standing by while Ahmadinejad says, the Iraqi people do not like Americans. Iran is claiming some of the credit for tamping down violence in Iraq. But the new Baghdad-Tehran access contains the seeds of a major diplomatic setback for the United States in the Middle East.
This is Daniel Schorr.
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