by Roula Khalaf and Najmeh Bozorgmehr
Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad on Sunday became the first regional head of
state to visit Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion, underlining Tehran's
close relations with its former enemy and staging a symbolic show of
defiance of the US. . . .
While Tehran has cemented ties with Iraqi groups, no Arab state has sent
high-level representatives to Baghdad, citing security concerns as well as
disapproval of the marginalisation of the Sunni minority.
Saudi Arabia only recently said it was opening an embassy in Baghdad Ð a
move the US has urged.
While the US and its Arab allies see Iranian influence in Iraq as
destabilising, Iran maintains that it is the only regional state to have
supported the elected Iraqi government.
Iran has also forged closer economic ties with Iraq and has been involved in
the export of electricity and in construction deals. Trade between the two
countries stood at around $2bn (Û1.3bn, £1bn) in 2006, according to Iranian
officials who hope it will reach $10bn over the next five years.
According to Ali-Reza Sheikh-Attar, deputy Iranian foreign minister, some 10
economic and co-operation agreements were expected to be signed during the
visit. . . .
Simon Tisdall, "Ahmadinejad
on Israel," Guardian, December 20, 2005
Wisam Mohammed, "Ahmadinejad tells United States to quit region," Reuters, March
"Stephen Kinzer on the U.S.-Iranian Relations, the 1953 CIA Coup in Iran
and the Roots of Middle East Terror," democracynow.org, March 3, 2008