In a Middle East triangle more dangerous than the romantic affairs of Generals Petraeus and Allen, the United States is leaning on Iraq to stop the shipment of arms from Iran to Syria, while the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is battling to hold power against rebel forces that have the diplomatic backing of the United States and other western nations.
The United States is pressuring the Iraq government led by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to forbid the use of Iraq's air space for Iran-to-Syria flights unless Iran agrees to have the planes land in Iraq for inspection to ensure no weapons are being sent to the Damascus government. U.S. officials are concerned that the Baghdad regime is not cooperating in that effort, the New York Times reported. "The abuse of Iraqi airspace by Iran continues to be a concern," said an unnamed American official, as quoted by the Times. "We urge Iraq to be diligent and consistent in fulfilling its international obligations and commitments, either by continuing to require flights over Iraqi territory en route to Syria from Iran to land for inspection or by denying overflight requests for Iranian aircraft going to Syria." A spokesman for al-Maliki, however, denied Iraq is ignoring the U.S. requests.
"We wouldn't be able to convince them, even if we searched all the airplanes, because they have prejudged the situation," Ali al-Musawi told the Times. "Our policy is that we will not allow the transfer of arms to Syria." On the other hand, Hadi al-Amiri, Iraq's minister of transportation, struck a more defiant tone when denying reports that Iraq had been colluding with Iran and tipping off the Iranians about when the supposedly random inspections would occur.
"This is untrue," Amiri said. "We are an independent country and our stance is clear. We will search whichever plane we want, whenever we want. We will not take orders."
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Photo of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki: AP Images