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Monday, November 26

We'll take the deal, for now

On November 19 Threats Watch listed various signs that Iran has recently begun cooperating to help stabilize Iraq at least temporarily. The organization warned that Tehran's strategy shift "has more to do with a desire to further its nuclear program than to build a stable Iraq."

Yes, well, TIW -- this is war. We need to keep following down this road, even though it justifiably worries opponents of Iran's nuclear program.

Here is the rundown on signs of cooperation from the Threats Watch article; visit the site to obtain the source links and for the rest of the report, which focuses on signs of Iran's nuclear advancement:
[...] In recent meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran made “guarantees” to stop supplying explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). While these guarantees and those before them were met with skepticism, Major General James Simmons, the deputy commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq, sees reason to be optimistic:

“I’m hopeful… What I see is a diplomatic effort being undertaken by the United States government – and I see a positive response from the Iranian government and that’s good.”

A few weeks later, Simmons once again noted additional signs of Iranian cooperation: “We have not seen any recent evidence that weapons continue to come across the border into Iraq.”

Simmons’ comments echo an early November statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Iran was playing some role in the reduction of bombings by Shi’a militias. Gates did acknowledge, though, that it was difficult to quantify exactly how much of a positive influence Iran was playing in this matter. Nevertheless, there was a clear recognition that positive steps were being taken.
Similarly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari noted Iran’s effort to “rein in” Shi’a militias. In a November 6 interview with Ross Colvin of Reuters, Zebari clearly stated that “Iran has been instrumental in reining in the militias and the Mehdi Army by using its influence.” As such, “Part of the security improvement was their [Iran’s] control of the militias. We see this as a positive development.”

For its part, the United States is making a few overtures to Iran as a gesture of goodwill. On November 6, Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith announced that the U.S. military would release 9 of the 20 Iranians they have captured in Iraq. And while the 9 released Iranians do not include the highest ranking or “most troubling” of the detainees, the U.S. is clearly offering Iran a carrot in the hopes of continuing the cooperation.

The release of these detainees reflects a shift in policy for the U.S. as well. Among the 9 being returned are 2 of the 5 Iranians captured in a raid on an Iranian consulate in Irbil in January 2007. Last month while speaking to editors and reporters at the Washington Post, Lieutenant General Raymond T. Odierno argued that “militarily, we should hold on to them.” Thus, the release of these IRGC members indicates that America sees an opportunity to move the diplomatic process forward. [...]

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