• 8 May 2008
  • Posted By Emily Blout
  • Diplomacy, Events in DC

Iran in Iraq: whats next for the US

Word on the Hill is that there will be a lay-out of Iranian weapons that have been used by “special groups” to kill US soldiers and undermine the Iraqi government pretty soon. They are still deciding whether it should be Petraeus/Crocker or the Iraqi government who should present what several insiders have described as “strong” evidence that the Iranians are fueling instability and the recent in-fighting in Basra.

In their testimony April 8, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker spelled out a definitive link between Iranian interference in Iraq and America’s ability to draw down troops.

Senator Barak Obama (D-IL) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA), both members of the Foreign Relations Committee, had plenty to say on that front. Both democratic senators took jabs at the premise that Iranian “meddling” should keep us in Iraq. I have included some excerpts from the hearing transcript below.

BOXER: Iraqi leaders kissed Ahmadinejad on the cheek?

Senator Barbara Boxer asked Petraeus some pointed questions about Iraq’s relationship with the Amadinejad government:

BOXER: Ahmadinejad was the first national leader to be given a state reception by Iraq’s government. Iraq President Talabani and Ahmadinejad held hands as they inspected a guard of honor, while a brass band played brisk British marching tunes. Children presented the Iranian with flowers. Members of Iraq’s cabinet lined up to greet him, some kissing him on cheeks.

So it’s not a question about the militias out there. I’m saying, after all we have done, the Iraqi government kisses the Iranian leader, and our president has to sneak into the country. I don’t understand it.

Isn’t it true that after all we’ve done, Iran has gained ground?

CROCKER: Senator, Iran and Iranian influence in Iraq is obviously an extremely important issue for us. But it’s very much, I think, a mixed bag. And what we saw over these last couple of weeks in Baghdad and in Basra, as the prime minister engaged extremist militias that were supported by Iran, is that it revealed not only what Iran is doing in Iraq, but it produced a backlash against them and a rallying of support for the prime minister in being ready to take them on.

Iran by no means has it all its own way in Iraq. Iraqis remember with clarity and bitterness the 1980 to ’88 Iran-Iraq war in which…

BOXER: That’s my point.

PETRAEUS: … in which…

BOXER: And now he’s getting kissed on the cheek. That’s my point.

PETRAEUS: And — and there was a lot of commentary around among Iraqis, including among Shia Iraqis, about just that point. What’s he doing here, after what they did to us during that war.

But Iraqi Shia died by the tens, by the hundreds of thousands, defending their Arab and Iraqi identity and state against a Persian enemy. And that’s, again, deeply felt. It means when Iran’s hand is exposed in backing these extremist militias that there is a backlash, broadly speaking, in the country, including from Iraq Shia. And I think that’s important. And I think it’s important that the Iraqi government build on it.

BOXER: I give up. It is what it is. They kissed him on the cheek. I mean, what they say over the dinner table is one thing. But they actually kissed him on the cheek. He had a red carpet treatment.

And we are losing our sons and daughters every single day for the Iraqis to be free.

It is irritating, is my point.

PETRAEUS: Senator, the vice president was in Iraq just a couple weeks after that, and he also had a very warm reception.

BIDEN: Did he get kissed? Get a kiss?


PETRAEUS: I believe he did get kissed when he was there.

BIDEN: I just want to know whether he got kissed, that’s all.


OBAMA: If Iraq can talk to them, why can’t we?

During his turn at the mike, Obama sought to clarify US objectives when it comes to Iranian influence.

OBAMA: Just as it’s fair to say that we’re not going to completely eliminate all traces of Al Qaida in Iraq, but we want to create a manageable situation, it’s also true to say that we’re not going to eliminate all influence of Iran in Iraq, correct?

That’s not our goal. That can’t be our definition of success, that Iran has no influence in Iraq.

So can you define more sharply what you think would be a legitimate or fair set of circumstances in the relationship between Iran and Iraq, that would make us feel comfortable drawing down our troops?

CROCKER: Senator, as I said in my statement, we have no problem with a good, constructive relationship between Iran and Iraq. The problem is with the Iranian strategy of backing extremist militia groups and sending in weapons and munitions that are used against Iraqis and against our own forces.

OBAMA: Do we feel confident that the Iraqi government is directing these — this aid to these special groups?

Do we feel confident about that, or do we think that they’re just tacitly tolerating it? Do you have some sense of that?

CROCKER: There’s no question in our minds that the Iranian government, and in particular the Quds Force, is — this is a conscious, carefully worked-out policy.

OBAMA: If that’s the case, can you respond a little more fully to Senator Boxer’s point? If, in fact, it is known — and I’m assuming you’ve shared that information with the Maliki government — that Iran’s government has assisted in arming special groups that are doing harm to Iraqi security forces and undermining the Iraqi government, why is it that they’re being welcomed the way they were?

CROCKER: Well, we don’t need to, again, tell the prime minister that. He knows it.


CROCKER: And is trying to take some steps to tighten up significantly on the border.

In terms of the Ahmadinejad visit, you know, Iran and Iraq are neighbors. A visit like that should be in the category of a normal relationship.


CROCKER: I think what we have seen since then, in terms of this very clear spotlight focused on a malign Iranian influence, puts that visit into a very different perspective for most Iraqis, including the Iraqi Shia.

OBAMA: OK. Because — Mr. Chairman, I know that I am out of time, so let me just, if I could have the indulgence of the committee for one minute?

BIDEN: Everybody else has.


OBAMA: I just want to close with a couple of key points.

Number one, we all have the greatest interest in seeing a successful resolution to Iraq — all of us do. And that, I think, has to be stated clearly in the record.

I continue to believe that the original decision to go into Iraq was a massive strategic blunder, that the two problems that you’ve pointed out — Al Qaida in Iraq and increased Iranian influence in the region — are a direct result of that original decision.

OBAMA: That’s not a decision you gentlemen made. I won’t lay it at your feet. You are cleaning up the mess afterwards. But I think it is important as we debate this forward.

I also think that the surge has reduced violence and provided breathing room, but that breathing room has not been taken the way we would all like it to be taken. And I think what happened in Basra is an example of Shia versus Shia jockeying for power that underscores how complicated the political situation is there and how we still have to continue to work vigorously to resolve it.

I believe that we are more likely to resolve it, in your own words, Ambassador, if we are applying increased pressure in a measured way. I think that increased pressure in a measured way, in my mind — and this is where we disagree — includes a timetable for withdrawal.

Nobody’s asking for a precipitous withdrawal, but I do think that it has to be a measured but increased pressure; and a diplomatic surge that includes Iran. Because if Maliki can tolerate as normal neighbor-to-neighbor relations in Iran, then we should be talking to them as well. I do not believe we’re going to be able to stabilize the position without them.

You can access the full transcript of the hearing here.

Posted By Emily Blout

    4 Responses to “Iran in Iraq: whats next for the US”

  1. nader says:

    I would love to see this “strong” evidence

  2. Emily says:

    As would I. The weapons are supposed to have markings that denote they are Iranian made from 2007 and 2008.

  3. Mehdi says:

    This is simply psychological warfare. Somebody is simply building the case for a war. They could display ONE bullet and that alone accomplishes their goal of making it look like there is evidence that all of 70 million Iranians are in Iraq killing American soldiers. There is no way that such a “presentation” could have any other effect. They could even have spies in Iran sending weapons or support for militia in Iraq only to “prove” their case. CIA has done this in the past many times. Manufacturing evidence is nothing new to them. It is VERY easy to do. Iran must find ways to become proactive on such issues and not let “people decide for themselves” based on such fake “presentations.”

    Even if there is evidence that SOME factions or certain individuals within the Iranian government are causing trouble for Americans in Iraq, that doesn’t prove that the totality or majority of the Iranian government is an agreement with them. But I guess to get a war started so that all those lucrative military contracts can be signed, such “presentations” are enough, unfortunately.

  4. Michael Mahyar Hojjatie says:

    On the subject of Iran supporting Iraq, were these guys not just killing each other all of 20 short years ago? Granted, we know Saddam’s regime was just as barbaric as Iran’s nascent mullarchy, but still, how can two nations at each other’s throats within our lifetime suddenly become “brothers” without it being forced upon them by occupation, like America did to Germany and Japan in 1945?

    The whole thing sounds like a Nigerian oil scam.

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Dear Mr. Page:

It has come to our attention that Google has begun omitting the title of the Persian Gulf from its Google Maps application. This is a disconcerting development given the undisputed historic and geographic precedent of the name Persian Gulf, and the more recent history of opening up the name to political, ethnic, and territorial disputes. However unintentionally, in adopting this practice, Google is participating in a dangerous effort to foment tensions and ethnic divisions in the Middle East by politicizing the region’s geographic nomenclature. Members of the Iranian-American community are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts, particularly at a time when regional tensions already have been pushed to the brink and threaten to spill over into conflict. As the largest grassroots organization in the Iranian-American community, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) calls on Google to not allow its products to become propaganda tools and to immediately reinstate the historically accurate, apolitical title of “Persian Gulf” in all of its informational products, including Google Maps.

Historically, the name “Persian Gulf” is undisputed. The Greek geographer and astronomer Ptolemy referencing in his writings the “Aquarius Persico.” The Romans referred to the "Mare Persicum." The Arabs historically call the body of water, "Bahr al-Farsia." The legal precedent of this nomenclature is also indisputable, with both the United Nations and the United States Board of Geographic Names confirming the sole legitimacy of the term “Persian Gulf.” Agreement on this matter has also been codified by the signatures of all six bordering Arab countries on United Nations directives declaring this body of water to be the Persian Gulf.

But in the past century, and particularly at times of escalating tensions, there have been efforts to exploit the name of the Persian Gulf as a political tool to foment ethnic division. From colonial interests to Arab interests to Iranian interests, the opening of debate regarding the name of the Persian Gulf has been a recent phenomenon that has been exploited for political gain by all sides. Google should not enable these politicized efforts.

In the 1930s, British adviser to Bahrain Sir Charles Belgrave proposed to rename the Persian Gulf, “Arabian Gulf,” a proposal that was rejected by the British Colonial and Foreign offices. Two decades later, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company resurrected the term during its dispute with Mohammad Mossadegh, the Iranian Prime Minister whose battle with British oil interests would end in a U.S.-sponsored coup d'état that continues to haunt U.S.-Iran relations. In the 1960s, the title “Arabian Gulf” became central to propaganda efforts during the Pan-Arabism era aimed at exploiting ethnic divisions in the region to unite Arabs against non-Arabs, namely Iranians and Israelis. The term was later employed by Saddam Hussein to justify his aims at territorial expansion. Osama Bin Laden even adopted the phrase in an attempt to rally Arab populations by emphasizing ethnic rivalries in the Middle East.

We have serious concerns that Google is now playing into these efforts of geographic politicization. Unfortunately, this is not the first time Google has stirred controversy on this topic. In 2008, Google Earth began including the term “Arabian Gulf” in addition to Persian Gulf as the name for the body of water. NIAC and others called on you then to stop using this ethnically divisive propaganda term, but to no avail. Instead of following the example of organizations like the National Geographic Society, which in 2004 used term “Arabian Gulf” in its maps but recognized the error and corrected it, Google has apparently decided to allow its informational products to become politicized.

Google should rectify this situation and immediately include the proper name for the Persian Gulf in Google Maps and all of its informational products. The exclusion of the title of the Persian Gulf diminishes your applications as informational tools, and raises questions about the integrity and accuracy of information provided by Google.

We strongly urge you to stay true to Google’s mission – “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” – without distorting or politicizing that information. We look forward to an explanation from you regarding the recent removal of the Persian Gulf name from Google Maps and call on you to immediately correct this mistake.



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