Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Iran in Iraq - Benign or Belligerent?

PressTV's Middle East Today takes a look at the Iranian presence in Iraq from both sides of the political divide.

An attack by unidentified gunmen on a well-marked Iranian diplomatic vehicle in Baghdad last week again raised the question of security in the country’s capital.

As one of the few foreign government’s to maintain a full diplomatic mission to the country – Iran says its presence in Iraq is a positive one, aimed at helping restore law and order; rebuild the devastated infrastructure and economy; and serve as an example to Iraq’s Arab neighbors to take a more proactive role in promoting the country’s recovery.

Washington, however, takes a very different view of Iran’s presence. Accusing Tehran of attempting to destabilize the country, of arming special groups to mount attacks on US and coalition interests, including the government of Nouri al-Maliki.

Tehran, meanwhile, accuses the United States of manipulating the chaos in Iraq, using the confusion to hide its own efforts to establish, train and generally support anti-Iranian groups to launch destabilizing attacks of their own inside Iran.

The government in Tehran say they’ve already uncovered links between US and British intelligence and the recent bomb attack on a mosque in the southern city of Shiraz.

Elsewhere in Iraq, a US soldier has been sent home after using a copy of the Holy Koran for target practice; the Americans were forced at the last minute to cancel a briefing where they were supposed to display evidence of or Iran’s military involvement in Iraq – they problem was, the evidence proved to be false.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government is continuing an offensive against al-Qaeda, while violence in Baghdad’s Sadr City appears to have abated.

The Sadr ceasefire was brokered with the assistance of Iran, and doubtless led to a reduction in violence and loss of life.

Iran shares a long border and a lot of history with Iraq, so it is inevitable they will be involved in one way or another with what is happening there. But the question we’ll be trying to answer on this edition of Middle East Today: Is Iran’s involvement benign or belligerent?

Joining us on this edition of Middle East Today were:

In London, Andrew Burgin, National Officer of Stop the War

In New York, was Stewart Stogel, UN Correspondent for Newsmax Magazine

In Tehran, we had the pleasure to welcome Doctor Mohammad Marandi, Head of North American Studies Department at Tehran University

And on the phone from Canada, Kamran Bokhari, director of Middle East Analysis of Strategic Forecasting Incorporated.

Here's what they had to say on Iran's involvement in Iraq, and some of their answers may surprise you.

Middle East Today, 20th May, 2008 "Iran in Iraq - Benign or Belligerent"

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