Al-Hakim Calls for Iranian Role
Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, member of the Interim Governing Council and head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, called in a statement distributed to politicians and clerics in Iran for that country to play a major role in Iraqi reconstruction. Al-Hakim said that Iran had stood with the Iraqi people against the Baath regime throughout the past two decades. He said that the old historical ties between the two countries make it natural for Iran to contribute in key ways to putting Iraq back on its feet. Al-Hakim is a hardliner close to Iran’s Supreme Jurisprudent, Ali Khamenei. But he met Monday with the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, reformist Mehdi Karrubi.
The US has been conducting secret back channel talks with Iran about this very possibility. Robin Wright notes in a recent LA Times article, “Iran will participate in an international donors conference this month in Madrid, and may end up as one of the few aid contributors. It is already offering to provide water, electricity and technical assistance to Iraq, a top Iranian diplomat said Friday.” (Reference below).
Wright quotes Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi as criticizing the drumbeat against Iran of Paul Bremer, which makes me wonder if he really has been involved in the opening to Iran. It seems mainly to be supported by the State Department. If George W. Bush has authorized State to reach out to Iran over the objections of both Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and of Mr. Bremer, this change would be momentous. It would suggest that Colin Powell is gaining greater credibility with the White House, after a long period in which the Defense Department has been allowed to virtually usurp Department of State functions in places like Iraq. The shift may also have something to do with the new authority being granted National Security Council adviser Condoleeza Rice over reconstruction and security in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Al-Hakim also complained that the major problem in Iraq remains a lack of security. He said that the US cannot provide that security, and, indeed, could not even protect its own troops. He urged again that the Shiite paramilitary associated with his party, the Badr Corps, be allowed to conduct armed patrols and provide security. The US has been adamantly against such a step.