Saturday, November 19, 2005

Iraqi official’s “cosy” ties with Iran stir anger in Iraq

Iran Focus:
A visit to Iran by Iraq’s top security official and his profuse praise of the Iranian government’s policy towards its western neighbour have aroused serious questions over the war-torn country’s security policies, according to Iraqi analysts and intellectuals.

Many Sunnis and secular Shiites in Iraq are openly accusing Muwafaq al-Rubaie, Iraq’s National Security Adviser, of doing the bidding of a country with which Iraq fought a bloody eight-year war. READ MORE

During a two-day visit to Tehran this week and in meetings with senior Iranian officials, al-Rubaie made a number of statements reported by Iran’s state-run media rejecting “accusations by the United States and Britain that Iran is meddling in Iraq” and praising Tehran for its “cooperation” with Iraq.

There is no evidence to prove that Iran is meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs”, al-Rubaie said. “We believe that the Iranian Islamic Republic is looking forward to creating an independent Iraq, which is led by a popular government”.

The official Iranian news agency, IRNA, quoted al-Rubaie as saying that “the presence of foreign troops in Iraq is a calamity that will last for some time and the presence of these troops in Iraq is not under the control of the Iraqi government”.

The purpose of al-Rubaie’s visit, according to Baghdad dailies, was to hold political and security deliberations with the Iranian officials. He signed an undisclosed security pact with his Iranian counterpart, Ali Larijani.

Observers were struck not only by al-Rubaie’s lavish praise for the Iranian government, but also by his failure to utter a word on the discovery of a secret torture chamber in Baghdad, which was being operated by officers of the Badr Brigade – a militia under the influence of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

How would anyone expect al-Rubaie to find evidence of Iran’s meddling in our country?” asked Mohsin Faleh, an Iraqi journalist and political analyst, in an angry tone.

Everyone in Iraq knows that al-Rubaie worked for many years under the patronage of Iran’s clerical establishment and was a senior adviser to the Qods (Jerusalem) Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. But what many Iraqis find unacceptable is to have such a man occupy the most sensitive security post in this government. He is simply not fit for the job”, said Faleh, who like al-Rubaie is a Shiite Muslim, but is opposed to religious rule and Iranian influence in Iraq.

A fervent Islamist in his youth, al-Rubaie went on to become a prominent member of the Shiite Dawa Party when it was an anti-Saddam Hussein terrorist organisation in the 1980s”, according to Newsweek. Dawa’s leadership was under direct Iranian influence in those years.

Former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi stripped al-Rubaie of his post as security adviser over his “suspected ties” with Iran’s intelligence, Faleh said. But al-Rubaie was reinstated in his post when a pro-Iranian Shiite government took over earlier this year.

Iraqi Sunnis, too, have deep concerns about al-Rubaie’s Iranian connections.

Iran is dominating our security and intelligence apparatus and some of the ministries like the Interior Ministry, but nothing is being done about this”, said Subhi al-Mokhtar, a Sunni Iraqi who teaches in Baghdad University. People are even afraid to talk about the infiltration of the Iraqi government by Iran’s Iraqi agents, because they might end up either with a bullet in their head or jailed in some underground torture centre run by the Badr”, he said, referring to the militia that is the armed wing of the pro-Iranian Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Al-Mokhtar said the political fallout of al-Rubaie’s widely reported statements in Iran was so potent in Iraq that “he would have to resign or clearly retract those remarks”.

We don’t need someone doing Iran’s bidding to take care of our security”, al-Mokhtar said.