On Monday, the hard-line Iranian newspaper Jomhuri-e-Eslami accused al-Maliki of lacking backbone in alks with Washington, which include the long-range status of U.S. military operations in Iraq. The daily, which is considered close to Iran's ruling clerics, claimed Washington wants a "full-fledged colony" in Iraq.Yes, Maliki & Co. are offering the empire "a permanent home" on Iran's doorsteps, against the interests of Iran1 -- unlike Sadr, who "pledged to come to the defense of neighboring Iran if it were attacked."2
It was a rare public jab at al-Maliki, a Shiite. But it was mild compared with the closed-door recriminations during the high-level Iraqi visit, according to accounts by Shiite politicians close to Iraq's prime minister.
The five-member delegation sought to pressure and cajole the Iranians into cutting suspected support for Shiite militias that have battled U.S. and Iraqi forces. But the Iraqis mostly received a scolding, the politicians said.
"The Iranians were very tough and even angry with us," said one of the delegates in the Tehran talks. "They accused us of being ungrateful to what Iran has done for the Shiites during Saddam's rule and of siding with the Americans against Iran."
The Iraqi politicians, five in all, spoke to the AP in separate interviews on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. Two of them took part in the talks with the Iranians. The rest were briefed on the meetings.
At one point, a key leader within Iran's Revolutionary Guards accused the Iraqi delegation and their leaders of being tools of Washington and showing ingratitude for years of Iranian support to Iraqi's majority Shiites, who suffered attacks and persecution under Saddam, the politicians said.
Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, commander of the elite Quds Force unit of the Guards, accused the Iraqis of offering U.S. forces "a permanent home on our doorsteps," the politicians told the AP. (Hamza Hendawi and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, "'Angry' Iran Sharpens Tone with Baghdad's Leaders," Associated Press, 15 May 2008)
Common people of Iran, already preferring Sadr to Maliki by a substantial margin,3 would side with the general on his assessment of the dominant Shi'i factions in the "Iraqi government."
Now the general ought to build elite consensus on this fact and help the Leader, et al. effect a nuanced shift in Iran's policy toward the Shi'i factions in Iraq.
1 See Hussein Shariatmadari, "Iraq on the Edge," Kayhan International, 11 May 2008; Manal Lutfi, "Iranian Official Accuses al-Maliki of Surrendering to the US," Asharq Al-Awsat, 13 May 2008; and Shadha al-Jubori, "Strategic Agreement with US Is in the Interest of Iraq -- Official," Asharq Al-Awsat, 14 May 2008. Note that so-called hard-liners are far more vigilant on defense of Iran from the empire than reformists, Rafsanjanists, and technocratic neo-conservatives, which is the reason why the Western media promote the latter against the former.
2 Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki, "Iraqi Shiite Cleric Pledges to Defend Iran: Sadr, With Powerful Militia, Vows to Respond to Attack by West on Neighbor," Washington Post, 24 January 2006, A13.
3 Sadr is "viewed favorably by 56 percent [of Iranians] and unfavorably by just 12 percent" whereas "45 percent [of Iranians] have a favorable view of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while 22 percent have an unfavorable view"(WorldPublicOpinion.org, "Public Opinion in Iran: With Comparisons to American Public Opinion," 7 April 2008, p. 29).