Yesterday Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari, accompanied by a dozen Iraqi cabinet ministers, rounded off a three-day official visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran. While there, Jaafari met with Iranian arch-dictator Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, outgoing president Mohammad Khatami and president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Jaafari heads the Islamic Dawa faction in Iraq, which is closely allied with Teheran. He came to Iraq after the downfall of Saddam's regime from Iran, where he had been living under the protection of the mullahs for more than a decade. Both US and Iraqi officials – Shi'ite and Sunni – have since the inauguration of the Iraqi Governing Council in the summer of 2003 stated repeatedly and matter of factly that he is an Iranian agent.
In the days and weeks ahead of Jaafari's visit, Iraq and Iran agreed to cooperate on military issues as well as on oil distribution issues. The oil deal, largely worked out last week, involves the transfer of some 380,000 barrels of Iraqi crude per day to Iran, to be swapped for an equal amount of refined petroleum products transferred to Iraq daily at the port of Basra.
Last June, in an act of international piracy, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards abducted eight British servicemen along the Shatt-al-Arab waterway linking Iran and Iraq by Basra. It was suspected at the time that the sailors were abducted while laying ship-detection sensors along the waterway in order to protect Iraqi oil terminals in Basra from the constant sabotage that had rendered the Iraqi oil industry a virtual hostage to terrorist forces. These forces, largely based in Iran, have been continuously attacking Iraq's pipelines and terminals since the fall of Saddam's regime.
So, in negotiating the oil deal with Iran, it can be easily argued that the Iraqis are surrendering to Iranian sabotage of their oil industry.
As to the military cooperation, two weeks ago, Iraqi Defense Minister Saadoun al-Duleimi met with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Shamkhani, in Teheran and the two reportedly agreed to conduct joint military training and cooperation in minefield removal. During their press conference Shamkhani demanded that the Iraqis force a withdrawal of US forces from the country. In Shamkhani's words, "Iran demands that the Iraqi government make a decision on this case. The government and people of Iraq should not allow foreign forces to consolidate their control in the area with the aim of providing security for Israel."
The most appalling aspect of the democratically elected Iraqi government's embrace of Teheran is that much of the terror war raging in Iraq today is directly sponsored by Teheran. This week Iran made an improbable announcement that it has detained, deported or imprisoned some 3,000 al-Qaida members whose identities, for some reason, it refuses to divulge. The announcement strains credulity since, as Gary Metz, otherwise known as Dr. Zin, the intrepid blogger from the "Regime Change Iran" Web site, noted this week, numerous intelligence reports have indicated that the majority of al-Qaida's leadership are in the Iranian Chalous area under the protection of the Revolutionary Guard's Jerusalem force, which was founded by Iran's president elect.
Both the Shi'ite terror leader Moqtada al-Sadr and al-Qaida's chief in Iraq Abu Musab Zarkawi have documented connections with Iran. Al-Sadr's terror campaign in the spring of 2004 was directed by Ayatollah Haeri in Teheran, and Zarkawi entered Iraq from Iran, where he had reportedly been operating since fleeing Afghanistan during the US invasion in the fall of 2001.
FOR ITS part, the US is saying little about Iraq's newfound alliance with Iran. US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalizad merely noted last Wednesday, "It's not the US policy to advocate or promote a hostile relationship between Iraq and Iran. They are neighbors. We want to see these two countries have good relations."
On Sunday The New York Times reported that the Bush administration has denied allegations made in the current issue of The New Yorker magazine to the effect that the US sought to influence the outcome of last January's elections in Iraq by supporting pro-US candidates. This denial is believable since one of the strangest aspects of those elections was that the US abjectly refused – in the name of non-interference – to help pro-US politicians in spite of the fact that Iran was funneling millions of dollars to its political allies – like Jaafari. Iran's influence over the elections was also ensured through the hundreds of radio and television stations and newspapers its intelligence organs began setting up in Iraq immediately after the US-led invasion.
JAAFARI'S JUNKET to Iran follows up nicely on another US-favorite "democratically" elected leader's trip to another terror capital. This, of course, would be Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas's trip to Damascus last week. The press reports from Damascus indicated that during his visits with the heads of Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as with Syrian dictator and terror sponsor Bashar Assad, Abbas asked for their cooperation in his "truce" with Israel.
And yet the facts on the ground tell a different tale. Four days after his return to Ramallah, Islamic Jihad sent its suicide bombers to Netanya and Shavei Shomron. Two days later Hamas began its terror offensive, pummeling Israeli communities in the Negev and Gaza with hundreds of mortars and Kassam rockets. In his call for an end to violence on Saturday, Abbas made it absolutely clear – for the millionth time – that he wishes not to disarm Hamas and Islamic Jihad, but, like Yasser Arafat before him, only to integrate them into the PA.
Here too, as is the case with Jaafari, not only is the US not voicing any anger or criticism at Abbas's collusion with terrorists, it is showering him with financial and diplomatic support.
The US embraced the G-8's decision – made while Abbas was still in Damascus – to transfer a mind-boggling $9 billion in aid to the PA over the next three years. Aside from this, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's abrupt decision to visit Israel and the PA this Thursday can only be seen as a US directive toward Israel not to launch a major ground operation in Gaza, in spite of the fact that the only way for Israel to deal with the rocket and mortar assaults is through just such an operation.
Indeed, in spite of the obvious fact that Abbas is no different from Arafat in terms of his support for terrorism as a strategy for dealing with Israel, the US insists on continuing to back him without question as the "democratically" elected leader.
The odd thing about the US refusal to challenge dubious "democratic" regimes like that in Iraq and the PA is that the US doesn't hesitate to challenge bona fide democratic allies like France, Germany and Israel when it has a policy difference with their governments. What is it about these particular regimes which makes them immune to US criticism?
Aside from this, while the administration claims that the nurturing of democracy in the Middle East is its overarching strategy for winning the war on global terrorism, in reality, in backing Abbas and Jaafari what the Bush administration is actually doing is nurturing the types of behavior that prevent democracy from taking root. It is encouraging and strengthening regimes and leaders who excel in doublespeak, coddle terrorists and undermine basic human rights.
Is anyone in Washington paying attention?
Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.