The Iraqi Prime Minister, Ibrahim al Jaafari’s current visit to Iran is a historic event where politics mix with history and facts blend with fiction. The trip to Tehran comes after decades of no diplomatic relations and a bloody war where a million people on both sides were injured, dies and lost their livelihood.
Al Jaafari’s groundbreaking visit is a golden opportunity for reconciliation between two important players in the Persian Gulf . Cooperation between Iran and Iraq would mean a change from the language of canons, missiles, and prisoner exchanges, to a new language of commerce and peace. This is an opportunity for calm to take hold in a region that has suffered for too long.
Reconciliation requires honesty. The new Iraqi government needs speak frankly to its Iranian counterpart, whilst remembering that Iraq has turned away from dictatorship but Iran has not changed.
The foreign policy of the Islamic Republic suffers from a lack of cohesion and a unified decision making process with regard to its neighbors. Whilst some figures call for appeasement and good neighborly relations, other powerful voices try to sabotage these relations by hurling accusations no matter the situation. This also applies to Iranian policies toward its Western neighbor. Some sides are calling for appeasement and the establishment of peaceful relations; others have blatantly interfered in Iraq ’s Southern provinces and financed a number of loyal religious and political groups, actions denounced by many inside Iraq .
Iran ought to realize that settling scores with the United States government, or “the Great Satan”, should not be at Iraqi’s expense. In fact, as American troops as present in their thousands in Iraq , Iran now has a new neighbor. Those who believe it is possible to fight the US by triggering political tensions and encouraging violence are strategically mistaken.
So far, words from Tehran have been encouraging, but the issue is one of actions, not words. Unless the Islamic Republic translates its message of reconciliation into deeds and refrains from interfering in Iraqi affairs, Jaffari’s speech and the Iranian reactions will be a sham, and harm both countries.