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Hot Air On Iraq

Russia has been persistently advocating the idea of a national-unity conference on Iraq, and many Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, share this view. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (pictured) said on March 5, almost a week before the Baghdad meeting, that Russia had agreed to attend it and the subsequent conference of foreign ministers on the condition that they would "discuss a real national reconciliation in Iraq, and ways to help Iraqis decide how they will live in their country." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Marianna Belenkaya
RIA Novosti Commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) March 20, 2007
On March 10, an international conference initiated by the Iraqi government in an effort to stop the armed clashes and sectarian war in the country, was held in Baghdad. The problem will now be taken up by the Group of Eight, or G-8, foreign ministers and their counterparts from Iraq's neighbors.

This meeting of foreign ministers was announced in Baghdad and should convene in Istanbul in April, but why hold it if its goals are not clear?

The meeting in Baghdad did not find a way to restore stability in Iraq, and nobody expected it to, because this is hardly possible now. What matters is that the meeting was held at all, and that it managed for the first time to gather representatives of the outside forces involved in the Iraqi standoff -- the United States and Britain on one side of the table, and Syria and Iran on the other.

It was also decided in Baghdad that technical committees of experts on security, refugees, energy and oil would be set up as a possible venue for talks on acute problems involving the above forces. This would benefit Iraq and the other regional countries because it may encourage the formulation of measures to build up trust in the Middle East. However, these possibilities may remain unfulfilled. The composition of the committees and their mode of operation are questionable. Most importantly, are the United States, Iraq and Syria ready to join forces, or will they continue to fight each other?

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney said at the March 12 meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: "If Iran's allies prevailed, the regime and Tehran's own designs for the Middle East would be advanced and the threat to our friends in the region would only be magnified."

Such words cannot help stabilize the region. The problems of Iraqi refugees, the security of Iraq's borders with Syria and Iran, oilfields, economic development, and stabilization in the sphere of security cannot be solved without a measure of trust in relations between the major players in the Middle East.

So, can the above technical committees succeed, and is a common agenda for the planned meeting of foreign ministers possible? Will the ministers meet in vain, or will they hammer out a practical action plan for Iraq? What can each minister contribute, and how will the participants coordinate their actions? Will they respect each other's opinions? And most importantly, might all of the above lead to a solution for the internal problems of Iraq?

Although outside players frequently have the predominant effect on the situation in the country, and therefore should coordinate a common program, they cannot discuss the issue while disregarding the strife between political groups in Iraq.

Russia has been persistently advocating the idea of a national-unity conference on Iraq, and many Middle Eastern countries, including Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt, share this view. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on March 5, almost a week before the Baghdad meeting, that Russia had agreed to attend it and the subsequent conference of foreign ministers on the condition that they would "discuss a real national reconciliation in Iraq, and ways to help Iraqis decide how they will live in their country."

Lavrov said at a meeting with delegates from Russian youth organizations that Russia wanted "to be sure that (the meetings) will discuss collective approaches" to the problem. According to the minister, Russia is prepared to join forces with Iraq's neighbors and other outside players to further the cause of Iraqi reconciliation.

So far, discussions of the Iraqi problem are mostly limited to Washington's relations with Iran and Syria and the possibility of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq. Russia has its own opinion on these problems, but their solution does not depend on it directly. The same is true of the other G8 countries (excluding the United States) and some of the regional players. Why should they meet in Istanbul then, if their role there would be purely decorative? To provide moral support? But whom should they give it to -- Iraq, the United States, Iran or Syria?

(Marianna Belenkayahe is an RIA Novosti political commentator. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti. This article is reprinted by permission of RIA Novosti.)

Source: RIA Novosti

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Washington (UPI) March 21, 2007
"Loose lips sink ships" was a popular slogan during World War II, a reminder that misplaced words could help the enemy. But the reverse is also true: Purposely placed words can sink the enemy's ships. At a time when President George W. Bush keeps reminding Iran that "all options are on the table," a group opposed to the regime reveals new information on the Islamic republic's involvement in Iraq.







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