Writing for The Christian Science Monitor Scott Peterson reports the view of Western diplomats in Teheran that Iran does not want to make the occupation of Iraq more difficult for the United States.
"Iran has no interest in creating, or being linked to, any kind of problems the Americans are facing in Iraq," says a Western diplomat. "They understand the price to be paid for doing that.
"If in some circles, [Iranians] are happy when Americans are killed in Iraq, the government and many conservatives don't share that joy," the diplomat adds. "Every setback for the Americans is bad news, because it lengthens the occupation and delays the moment when the Shiite [majority] will take control."
Peterson claims that the Iranian leaders want to make deals with the United States and improve relations.
By contrast, Philip Sherwell of the London Sunday Telegraph reports that Iran is planting agents and fomenting unrest in Iraq. (or same article here)
NAJAF, Iraq — Iran has dispatched hundreds of agents posing as pilgrims and traders to Iraq to foment unrest in the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, and the lawless frontier areas.
Their activities included "support for various people, some of whom have taken violent action against both Iraqis and against the coalition". Asked whether Iranians were suspected of possible involvement in shooting and bomb attacks, he replied: "There's certainly some indication of that, yes."
The Iranians must surely be sending agents into Iraq. The mullahs are going to try to increase their influence now that Saddam is gone regardless of whether they want to encourage attacks. What exactly they see as being in their best interests is hard to say. But the mullahs are not friends of the American occupation. While they probably want to see US forces capture or destroy the last of the Baathists they may be testing whether they could stir up a much larger amount of trouble for the US using Shiites since a Shiite uprising would probably be religious in nature and would decrease the odds that Iraq would become a popular democracy.
It is important to understand what is going on in Iran if we are to have a better chance of guessing what the Iranian government is doing in Iraq. Writing for the Daily Telegraph John Casey has written an excellent account of his travels and conversations during a two week trip to Iran. (free registration required)
And unpopular it certainly is. I was often told that so disliked are the mullahs that people in the ''shared taxis'' of Teheran will never allow the driver to stop to pick up one of the clergy, and even that mullahs will take off their turbans when riding in taxis, lest people shout abuse at them through the windows.
I was also told confidently that one never sees a mullah walking through the Teheran streets for the same reason - although I did see two or three. There is an impasse - a well-educated, assertive clergy, confident in their right to guide the country, and a discontented majority who will hear nothing good about them at all. I felt torn. I liked these men.
Iran itself is torn. The majority wants a change. The ruling minority is willing to be ruthless to maintain their power and the majority knows this. As long as the rulers remain united the prospects for change seem remote. For the US this poses a big problem since the rulers are probably within 2 or 3 years of building working nuclear weapons.
Casey's article is the best of the articles linked to in this post. He talks to a variety of clergymen who are outside of government, ordinary citizens who are very pro-American and pro-British, and manages to have some encounters with what can only be described as thoughtful working class intellectuals of a sort that would be hard to find any more in the West. I strongly urge reading it in full.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 September 30 01:58 PM MidEast Iran|