As early as April 2004, I argued in "The Bush Administration, Member of OPEC" that "Washington has been so hands-off of Iraqi oil, so willing to let Iraqis run this critical aspect of their country's national life, that it permits them to act exactly against not just U.S. interests but against Bush administration interests." Still, it has become commonplace to see the leadership in Baghdad as serving the U.S. government.
Well, here's another nail in that coffin. The Iraqi minister of defense, Saadoun al-Dulaimi, today signed a military pact with Iran agreeing to arrange for Iranian military training of Iraqi troops, joint committees to cooperation on cleaning minefields, and other areas of cooperation. Asked if this warming with Iran would anger Washington, Dulaimi replied: "Nobody can dictate to Iraq its relations with other countries." Some puppet.
His Iranian counterpart, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, echoed this view: "No one can prevent this cooperation." He also stated that "the Iraqi government and people should not allow foreign powers to consolidate their presence in the region and thereby reinforce the security of the Zionist regime." And he promised to provide Iraq with a $1 billion aid package.
The Associated Press points out that al-Dulaimi's comments "were a sharp contrast to those of his predecessor. Last year, former Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan called Iran his country's ‘first enemy,' accusing it of supporting Iraqi insurgents and allowing them to freely cross the border." Al-Dulaimi's three-day visit to Tehran, accompanied by the chief of staff, and the heads of the army, air force and navy, is the first by an Iraqi military delegation since the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein in April 2003. (July 7, 2005)
July 31, 2005 update: Further confirmation of Iraq's independence comes from Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who used the occasion of a visit to Iraq last week to tell the Iraqi leadership to oppose more aggressive the "harmful" meddling of Iran in its affairs; and if this were not done, U.S. forces would stay longer.
Dec. 30, 2006 update: Evidence keeps mounting that the Iraqi government makes its own decisions, even at the expense of relations with Washington. Most obviously and prominently, the execution of Saddam Hussein took place today, to the evident discomfort of the Bush administration, which would have rather seen the legal process seen through in an orderly way. But on a much lower and routine level, Baghdad regularly defies Washington, as epitomized by its decision to expel two Iranians who had been detained by American forces. As the Washington Post explains:
Two senior Iranian operatives who were detained by U.S. forces in Iraq and were strongly suspected of planning attacks against American military forces and Iraqi targets were expelled to Iran on Friday, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials. The decision to free the men was made by the Iraqi government and has angered U.S. military officials who say the operatives were seeking to foment instability here. "These are really serious people," said one U.S. defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "They were the target of a very focused raid based on intelligence, and it would be hard for one to believe that their activities weren't endorsed by the Iranian government. It's a situation that is obviously troubling." … The Iraqi government decided to honor Tehran's claims that the two detainees had diplomatic immunity. U.S. officials had argued that although the men had diplomatic passports, they were operating under aliases and therefore not immune.
Amusingly, the article ends with this throw-away line: "Some U.S. officials on Friday saw the decision by Iraq to expel the two men as a positive development that reflected Iraq's independence."
Comment: The Bush administration has created a worst-of-all-worlds situation whereby its actions – posting so many soldiers in the cities, building the world's largest embassy in the heart of Baghdad, treating the Iraqis like wards – creates the impression that it is control, when it actually is not.