Sunday, March 02, 2008

Iran and Iraq

The predictable Reuters anti-Bush triumphalism aside, the picture drawn here probably will be a sobering one for a lot of American supporters of the war to overthrow Saddam and put a freely elected Iraqi government in his place:

Pomp and ceremony greeted Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his arrival in Iraq on Sunday, the fanfare a stark contrast to the rushed and secretive visits of his bitter rival U.S. President George W. Bush.

Ahmadinejad held hands with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani as they walked down a red carpet to the tune of their countries' national anthems, his visit the first by an Iranian president since the two neighbours fought a ruinous war in the 1980s.

His warm reception, in which he was hugged and kissed by Iraqi officials and presented with flowers by children, was Iraq's first full state welcome for any leader since the U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein in 2003.

... Ahmadinejad's motorcade took Iraq's notoriously dangerous airport road to Talabani's palace at the start of his two-day visit, eschewing the helicopter trip usually taken by other visiting dignitaries as a security measure.

Bush's last visit in September 2007 was to a desert airbase in Anbar province in Iraq's west. He flew in unannounced to ward off insurgent attacks and the visit was over in a few hours.

... U.S. officials in Baghdad say they will play no role in Ahmadinejad's visit and that the U.S. military will not be involved in protecting him as he travels around unless it is asked for help.

When Ahmadinejad flew into Baghdad, his plane was controlled by Iraqi air controllers. But from his plane, Ahmadinejad would probably have seen the rows of American armoured vehicles and helicopters at a giant U.S. military base next to the airport.

It's worth remembering that the notion Iraqis -- and Arabs and Muslims generally -- would love us and be our friends after all this was a pipe dream, even in the best-imagined outcome of the liberation/occupation. The sober best hope before it all began would be that Iraq could become another Turkey; more secular than not, and with a population highly suspicious of and hateful toward the United States, ready to believe we literally would drink their blood and sell their kidneys to the Jews, you and I. But too busy with its own success and mobility to do too much about it.

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