Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Shiite Threat Draws Secret Mideast Talks

Arizona Republic:
Top intelligence officers from several Arab countries and Turkey have been meeting secretly to coordinate their governments' strategies in case civil war erupts in Iraq and in an attempt to block Iran's interference in the war-torn nation, Arab diplomats said Tuesday. The meetings came after several Arab leaders voiced concerns about possible Shiite domination of Iraq and their alliance with Iran.

The four diplomats said intelligence chiefs from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and non-Arab Turkey held a series of meetings over the last few weeks to assess the situation in Iraq.

They are working out plans to avoid any regional backlash that may result from sectarian conflict in Iraq. READ MORE

The diplomats in several Middle Eastern capitals, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Iran and Syria have been excluded from the talks.

One diplomat whose country is involved in the talks said the officials are focusing on the proposed U.S.-Iranian dialogue on Iraq and the implications on Arabs and Turkey of any "American-Iranian deal."

Government officials in Egypt and Jordan declined to answer questions on the meetings.

Reports in the Arab press have suggested that any agreement between Washington and Tehran will be at the expense of Arabs.

Arab nations, mostly Sunni and traditionally suspicious of Iran, are deeply concerned about what they see as Iran's growing influence in Iraq.

Turkey, also a key Sunni Muslim nation, is worried about Iraq's split into sectarian and ethnic entities.

Those splits could give rise to Kurdish ambitions for independence.