Reports say Iraqi PM Nour al-Maliki received a warm welcome on his most recent visit to Iran, a nation he has always had close ties with. The man's there more often than Mookie al-Sadr is alleged to be.
On Wednesday evening, Mr Maliki met Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Now, the bit I've bolded is the interesting bit, in that it flat contradicts what the US military and Bush administration have been claiming. I suppose it depends on whether the Iranian media are being truthful in their reporting, because I doubt very highly that Maliki will ever say any such thing in a forum where more Western reporters might be listening. I'd love to know if there is video of Maliki making such a pronouncement.
Iranian media said that after the meeting Mr Maliki expressed appreciation for Iran's positive and constructive stance on Iraq, including providing security and fighting against what he described as terrorism.
Several Iranian officials criticised the US position in Iraq.
"Establishment of peace and tranquility in Iraq depends on withdrawal of occupiers and their avoidance from interfering in Iraq, and also on the authority of the government of Mr Maliki," Mr Davoodi said after talks with the prime minister.
"We regard Iraq's security as our own security and that of the region," he added.
Iraqi officials have said Mr Maliki will be seeking further co-operation from Iran in helping to quell the violence in his country.
Update Bush is in full-on spin mode.
Asked today what message the meeting and photographs sent by showing an apparently “warm” visit between the Iraqi and Iranian officials, Mr. Bush said that he would first like to get a “readout” from the American embassy in Baghdad, which would be in touch with Mr. Maliki.I guess that answers that. If Maliki hadn't really said it, Bush wouldn't be in such a hurry to say he shouldn't have.
“Now, if the signal is that Iran is constructive, I will have to have a heart to heart with my friend, the prime minister,” Mr. Bush said of Mr. Maliki. “Because I don’t believe they are constructive. I don’t think he, in his heart of heart, think they’re constructive either.”
...Asked if he was confident Mr. Maliki shares his view, Mr. Bush said yes.
“He knows that weaponry being smuggled in to Iraq from Iran and placed into the hands of extremists — over which the government has no control, all aimed at killing innocent life — is a destabilizing factor,” Mr. Bush said.
“So the first thing I looked for was commitment against the extremists,” Mr. Bush said. “Second thing is: Does he understand with some extremist groups there’s connections with Iran? And he does. And I’m confident.”
The AFP describes this as Bush warning Maliki against "cozying up to Iran, amid what Washington sees as unsettling signs of warming Baghdad-Tehran relations." It adds another little snippet too, where the White house had to spin the spin!
"My message to him is, when we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay," Bush said in remarks which could have been taken as a criticism of Maliki.But the "him" was surely Maliki.
US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe later said the "price to pay" remark by Bush was directed at Iran.
Update 2 Eric Martin picks up on the theme and - after pointing out that "moderate" groups like Maliki's Dawa and the SCIRI-Badr militia are not all that moderate at all (they just toady better than Sadr) and were equipped and funded from iran long before the invasion - comments thusly on Bush's statement today:
It really is astounding that our President is either: (a) this clueless; or (b) feels the need to pretend to be...in public.Yup. Recall those Saudi documents the Bush administration insists are forged that say Maliki is an agent for the Iranians? The docements may be forged but the end result is indistinguisable from what would be the case if they were true.
Let me get this straight: Bush doesn't think that Maliki (the head of the Dawa Party) finds Iran to be a constructive ally? Not in his heart of hearts (which is reminiscent of his infamous, and mistaken, gaze into Putin's soul). And Bush is confident that the head of the Dawa Party shares the same view on Iran as he does? Also, regarding the smuggling of weaponry: I'm sure Maliki is aware of the phenomenon. How else is he supposed to arrange for the pickup?