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US, Iraq, Iran and Israel Need To Talk Not Meddle

Time ripe for US-Iran talks: Israel intelligence chief
Israel's military intelligence chief has said the time could be right for Washington to open a dialogue with Tehran as a means to halt Iran's nuclear drive, media reported on Tuesday. "Dialogue with Iran is not necessarily negative. It it fails, it will lead to the strengthening of sanctions," said the intelligence chief, General Amos Yadlin, quoted by Haaretz. "Dialogue is not appeasement," he said. Top Israeli officials have in the past warned against Washington engaging in any form of dialogue with the Islamic republic and insisted a military option should not be ruled out. But the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency has set the stage to increase international pressure on Iran to abandon its nuclear aspirations, Yadlin said. "Iran will do anything not to be cornered in the position of Iraq or North Korea," he said at a lecture in honour of late military chief of staff Moshe Dayan. "Iran is also very susceptible to international pressure because of the (global financial) crisis," Yadlin was quoted as saying. Israel considers Iran its main strategic threat because of Tehran's accelerating uranium enrichment programme, which Israel and the West believe is aimed at developing nuclear weapons. Iran insists the programme is entirely peaceful. Earlier this month, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni -- who hopes to become prime minister after February 10 elections -- urged US vice president-elect Joe Biden to keep up a tough line on Iran. She has also said that dialogue with Iran "may be interpreted as a sign of weakness," in contrast to Obama's stated willingness to meet Tehran's representatives if the conditions are right.
by Staff Writers
Baghdad (AFP) Nov 18, 2008
Senior US and Iraqi officials differed on Tehran's role in stalling a military accord that will allow US troops to remain in Iraq until 2011, as Iran on Tuesday sent mixed signals on the deal.

The Iraqi cabinet approved the agreement on Sunday and parliament was expected on November 24 to take a vote on the wide-ranging pact, which would replace the troops' UN mandate when it expires on December 31.

After months of wrangling, the agreement was eventually accepted by all the major political blocs representing Iraq's Shiite majority and its Sunni and Kurdish communities.

But two senior US officials involved in the protracted negotiations leading up to the deal insisted on Monday that mostly Shiite Iran had done everything it could to pressure Iraqi leaders into refusing the agreement.

"There has been absolutely no softening in the position of the government of Iran. They are dead-set against the success of this agreement," one of the officials said on condition of anonymity.

"They have, to our knowledge and the knowledge of every Iraqi official involved in this, maintained unrelenting pressure."

Despite the vast improvement in security in Iraq over the past year US officials insist Iran is still funding, arming and training proxy militias in the country, charges denied by Tehran.

"Iran strategically wants to be the dominant actor in this country in every sphere, economics, political, security," another senior US official in Baghdad said. "They have pulled out every stop to block this agreement."

Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, however, said he felt the Iranians had "become less offensive on this agreement" because of Iraqi assurances that its territory would not be used for attacks on its neighbours.

"I think that (the Iranians) are looking to have a better policy with the US. We are encouraging even the US to review their policy toward Iran," Dabbagh told AFP at his residence in Baghdad's heavily-guarded Green Zone on Monday.

"We are the big loser in the conflict between the United States and Iran. At the end Iraq is a battlefield," he added.

In a televised address later on Tuesday Maliki sought to reassure both Iran and Syria, who have said the pact legitimises the US occupation.

"There will be no permanent (US) bases in Iraq and our country will not be used as a corridor or as a base to attack another state," Maliki said.

Tehran has yet to officially respond to the Iraqi cabinet's approval, but in the Islamic republic reactions were mixed.

Parliament speaker Ali Larijani urged the Iraqi parliament to resist the pact which he said strengthens "US hegemony in Iraq," in statements carried overnight by the official IRNA news agency.

"With this so-called security pact, they were after turning Iraq into another US state but the Iraqi sources of jurisprudence, government and nation resisted for eight months," Larijani said, referring to the lengthy talks.

"The Iraqi nation and parliament should realise that the time for resistance is not over yet," he added.

But the head of Iran's judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi, said Iraq had "performed well" with regard to the pact and expressed his hope that US troops would depart according to its timetable.

Last month Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the agreement seeks to keep Iraq weak to help America "pillage" the country.

But a week after he made his remarks the US military again accused Iran of stoking violence in Iraq, saying it had arrested 39 Iranian-funded "criminals" and seized half a million dollars bound for militias.

Iran, which fought a bloody war with Iraq from 1980-1988, has denied such charges, saying it is committed to stability in the country.

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US-Iraq Pact Highlights Year Of Ongoing Gains
Washington (AFP) Nov 17, 2008
Washington and Baghdad are moving closer to clinching a security pact that highlights Iraq's growing stability but also the blood and treasure that all sides have spent to achieve modest gains.







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