End of Iraqi neutrality?

Interestingly, the government in Baghdad has also remained silent about the recent Israeli attacks. The Iraqi silence may seem odd, but this silence is also meaningful: where will Iraq stand in the worst-case scenario? That is uncertain and the question remains unanswered.

"Why keep silent? Do you intend to break your promise?" the influential Iranian journalist Ali Mussawi Khalkhali asked Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi. Khalkhali is editor-in-chief of Iran Diplomacy, a portal that strives to explain Iranian foreign policy in an understandable way and with as little propaganda as possible.

"Is Iraq no longer neutral?" It was with this question that Khalkhali began his article, which was published in Iran Diplomacy on 1 August, three days after the last Israeli attack. He described the events objectively, as they had been reported days before in Israeli, Arab and Western media – and then asked: "Iran is being threatened from within Iraq and the Iraqi government remains silent. Iraq has allowed Israel to attack Iran on its territory. Will Iraq also remain silent if we strike back?"

For Iran Diplomacy, the Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif is virtually a star that no one on the international stage can hold a candle to. The tributes to Zarif have reached new heights on the portal. Ever since he was sanctioned by the USA, Zarif has been celebrated as a hero whose arguments and interviews have driven the world power USA to despair.

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Indeed, the eloquent foreign minister always appears smiling and articulate in the Western media. Yet he is not taken seriously by his US counterpart, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. For Pompeo, Zarif is nothing more than a lackey to the Iranian revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei.

In defence of the sanctions against Zarif, Pompeo wrote in a tweet in Persian that Zarif was nothing more than a tool, someone left to clear up the mess made by others.

Zarif's offer to the USA

But it was precisely this man who received an unexpected invitation from the USA: Zarif could meet US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, made this diplomatic offer to Zarif at a meeting in New York on 15 July, according to an article published by The New Yorker magazine on 2 August.

With Trump's blessing, Paul finally met the Iranian foreign minister in the elegant residence of the Iranian ambassador on New York's Fifth Avenue. Apparently, this invitation is part of Trump's tactic to circumvent traditional diplomacy, as he did in the conflict with North Korea.

During the one-hour discussion, Zarif presented the Trump emissary with many ideas on how to get out of the nuclear impasse, The New Yorker continued.

According to the magazine, Zarif subsequently told a group of journalists that as a diplomat he "must always think about alternatives". If Trump wanted more, he would have to offer more. Iran could, for example, sign the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or sign a so-called Safeguards Agreement, which would allow unlimited and unannounced inspections of international experts in Iran.

Senator Rand Paul, on the other hand, issued an invitation on behalf of President Trump to Zarif for a meeting at the Oval Office for the same week, writes The New Yorker. A high-ranking official confirmed the invitation on 28 July in the White House: President Trump was always ready to talk to representatives of the Tehran leadership.

Zarif replied that he was not in a position to decide whether to meet Trump in the White House. He contacted Tehran and received the answer: not yet, The New Yorker continued. So much for the hero of Iranian foreign policy as celebrated by Iran Diplomacy.

"If you sanction diplomats, you will have less diplomacy," the AP news agency dubbed an article about the sanctions against Zarif. But there is not only less diplomacy: there is no diplomacy at all. The secret channels of communication seem to have dried up, everyone is preparing for the emergency. Israel has already taken action, the US is forging alliances in the Persian Gulf and the Europeans want to go their own way, which admittedly they have yet to find.

From Iran's point of view, however, it is much more dangerous that Iraq no longer wants to remain neutral in a possible war.

Ali Sadrzadeh

© Iran Journal / Qantara.de 2019

Ali Sadrzadeh is the Iran expert of Hessischer Rundfunk. He works as an editor for hr-iNFO. He was born in 1945 in Estahbanat, Iran. After graduating from high school and teacher training, he worked as a teacher in Tehran. In 1970 he came to Germany to study Psychology and Engineering in Kiel and then German and Political Science in Frankfurt. In 1980 he returned to Iran. He worked for DPA and Frankfurter Rundschau, since 1984 for hr. Ali Sadrzadeh was ARD correspondent in North Africa from 1990 to 1994.

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Comments for this article: Is war with Iran on the horizon?

Why omit that the first and foremost disrespect for Iraq's sovereignity was the installation of Iranian bases on its soil! That was well PRIOR to the proportional Israeli response on the increasing build-up with offensive weapons of those bases.

Rudi Dierick22.01.2020 | 14:29 Uhr