IN OTHER WORDS : Iran’s ploy

Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki’s two-day state visit to Iran last week was an occasion for sealing deals on oil extraction and commerce in petroleum products. It also marked Maliki’s return to the country where he spent part of his exile during the reign of Saddam Hussein. But above all, Maliki’s trip to Iran underlined the enormity of the geopolitical transformation that President Bush wrought when, by toppling Saddam, he tumbled Iraq into Iran’s sphere of influence.

Exactly how relations between the new Iraqi state and Iran may develop is yet to be determined. But Maliki’s visit illustrates some of the complexities weighing upon those relations. While Maliki and his Iranian hosts in Tehran were pledging friendship and cooperation, the Iraqi government spokesman was saying that his PM was emphasising that “we want the best of relations with Iran and we don’t want interference in our internal affairs.”

The Iranian regime may be playing an extremely subtle hand in Iraq or else disparate elements of that regime may be operating on separate tracks.

What does seem clear is that even while Iran’s supreme leader was telling Maliki that Iraq’s stability requires the departure of US troops, the spectre of Iranian dominance appears to be one more reason why Bush is not extricating US from Iraq. — The Boston Globe