Iraq-Iran relations core to historic visit

Feb. 28, 2008 at 9:15 PM
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TEHRAN, Feb. 28 (UPI) -- Regional analysts see the upcoming visit to Iraq by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a sign of the larger geopolitical dynamic.

Ahmadinejad will become the first Iranian president to visit Iraq since the 1979 Islamic revolution, and the visit is seen to bridge many diplomatic ties between the two countries whose relationship soured considerably under Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

Many of Iraq's current leaders, including Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, sought refuge in Iran during Saddam's rule.

The Fars news agency Thursday quotes an anonymous Western diplomat saying the move is something of a "foreign policy success" as the visit is occurring under the watch of the United States, who is pushing for tougher sanctions against Iran over their controversial nuclear program.

Iran and the United States, despite the saber-rattling by the Bush administration, have held some talks over the situation in Iraq. Iran established good neighborly relations with Afghanistan and Iraq following U.S.-led operations in both countries.

Iranian analysts say the relationship with Iraq is part of a broader effort to establish strong ties with its Iraqi neighbors. Tehran is keen on seeing a united Iraq emerge from the U.S.-led oversight there. Fars quotes one analyst saying a divided Iraqi would encourage sectarianism and destabilize the region.

Another Iranian analyst, Sadegh al-Hosseini, said Iraq may use the visit to encourage other Arab neighbors to invest in Iraq as some majority Sunni nations, such as Saudi Arabia, could be irritated by Iran's intentions in Iraq.

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