Irans Diplomatic Mission to Najaf Called Inappropriate
New York Sun - By Eli Lake
Apr 16, 2004
WASHINGTON The State Department yesterday said it was inappropriate for an Iranian diplomatic delegation to travel to Najaf in an effort to broker a solution to the standoff between American allies and outlaw cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
The comments highlight the tightrope America is walking in its Iran policy.
President Bush has labeled Iran part of the axis of evil, and some members of Congress want a harder American line against the regime in Tehran. Meanwhile, the Bush administration has pursued a not-so-private policy of negotiating with the Iranians.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters yesterday that an American diplomat had attended a meeting between Iranian and British diplomats in Baghdad this week to stress the importance for Iranian policy to be constructive and not destructive. But he added that the American diplomat also said it was not appropriate for this delegation to attempt to mediate the Najaf standoff.
On Wednesday Iranian diplomats said, and American officials confirmed, that they had been approached indirectly through Swiss and British diplomats from the Americans to help stabilize the unrest in Iraq.Yesterday a high-ranking Iranian diplomat in Baghdad, Khalil Naimi, the first secretary of the Iranian Embassy, was shot in the head in his car near the embassy.
Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi said his government had talks with America on Iraq. Currently it has stopped because we felt we were going nowhere. The Americans give promises but dont keep their promises. Currently, they are taking a wrong path, Mr. Kharrazi said, according to the Associated Press.
As the manhunt for Mr. al-Sadr goes into its second week, the coalition has tried to send numerous envoys to his hideout in Najaf to get the 32-year old cleric to turn himself in.
An Iranian delegation arrived yesterday in Najaf to try to end the standoff. At the same time, a report in al-Hayat quoting a recently defected Iranian intelligence officer said that elements of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard have long funded Mr. al-Sadrs militia and organization.
Iran clearly helped create this fire. If they are of any value in putting it out it will be at a very high price, Rep. Brad Sherman, a Democrat from California, told The New York Sun yesterday. Before we had public fire departments, it was not terribly unusual for someone to set a fire and then charge you for putting it out.
Mr. Sherman has been one of the main House sponsors of legislation to fund democrats in Iran and to require America to veto World Bank loans to Iran.
The assessment of Irans role in the current uprising was mixed this week from the chief of the Pentagons Central Command, General John Abizaid. He called Iranian activities in Iraq unhelpful, but he also said, With regard to the Iranians, there are elements within Iran that are urging patience and calm and trying to limit the influence of Mr. al-Sadr. So its a complicated situation. But what we need is all of the nations around Iraq to participate in calming the situation and assisting with a sovereign and stable government emerging.
The deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Patrick Clawson, told the Sun yesterday, The Iranians are simultaneously pursuing several different policy angles. He said the Iranians were providing al-Sadr support, but providing more support to their traditional Shiite allies in the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
The council is one of the largest political parties represented on the 25 person Iraqi Governing Council and some of its members are heading key Iraqi ministries in the transitional government. The Iraqi Governing Council in November signed a series of trade and security agreements with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The chief of the coalition provisional authority, L. Paul Bremer, approved travel between Baghdad and Tehran this fall for a large delegation to discuss areas of mutual cooperation.
The Iran-Iraq border is also not routinely monitored by American soldiers and remains very porous.
I think the Islamic Republic has been giving a hard time to the forces who are fighting against terror. Iran is trying to use the turmoil that it created to try to show a good face and surf on the wave of the American opinion in an election year, a spokesman for the Student Movement Coordination Committee for Democracy in Iran, Aryo Pirooznia, told the Sun yesterday. Mr. Pirooznias organization has worked in opposition to the current regime in Tehran. http://www.daneshjoo.org/generalnews/article/publish/article_5755.shtml