Just days after President Obama acceded to Iraq’s wishes and announced that all US troops would be out of Iraq by January 1, Michele Bachmann has already pivoted to slamming the George W. Bush–installed pro-Tehran government in Baghdad. Meanwhile, the Obama administration, too, is telling Iran: “We’re ready for ya.”
Bachmann, a know-nothing on foreign policy, allowed herself this outburst:
“We are there [in Iraq] as the nation that liberated these people. And that’s the thanks that the United States is getting after 4,400 lives were expended and over $800 billion? And so on the way out, we’re being kicked out of the country?”
Not that the United States is abandoning Iraq. From President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Secretary of Defense Panetta on down, U\S. officials are unanimous in declaring that they intend to go back to the negotiating table to make sure that the United States can send some military trainers and equipment specialists to Iraq in 2012, to help Iraq learn how to use the high-tech weapons Washington hopes to sell to Iraq in the future.
And Clinton issued a blunt warning to Iran:
“Iran would be badly miscalculating if they did not look at the entire region and all of our presence in many countries in the region, both in bases [and] in training, with NATO allies, like Turkey.”
To underscore the point for Iran, Panetta added up the numbers in the Persian Gulf, just in case Iran can’t count:
“Well, you know, I guess I’d remind you that when we talk about normal relationships in that part of the world, we have a number of them in the region, and they vary in number. For example, in Bahrain I think, you know, we’ve got almost 5,000 troops that we have in Bahrain. We’ve got…almost 3,000 in the UAE and about 7,500 in Qatar.”
On Iraq, Panetta added:
“With regards to Baghdad and to Iraq, that remains to be worked out. Once we’ve completed the reduction of the combat presence, then I think we begin a process of negotiating with them in order to determine what will be the nature of that relationship—what kind of training do they need; what kind of security needs do they need; and how can we provide it in an effective way. We do this in other countries. That’s what we’re going to do in Iraq.”
Of course, the Iranians are in no hurry. Their influence in Iraq is vast and growing, and they afford to be patient, careful not to exacerbate anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalism while building up economic, military and political ties to every Iraqi faction.
Deliberately sticking his finger in America’s eye, the ever-bombastic President Ahmadinejad of Iran suggested that Tehran is willing, and soon, to provide military training to Iraqi forces. Asked by Fareed Zakaria, in a CNN interview in Tehran, about whether Iran would be willing to go into Iraq to help its military, Ahmadinejad replied:
“I think we should—we should have done it sooner, maybe seven or eight years ago, and they would avoid killing so many Iraqi people or Americans, as well. I think they should have done it much earlier. But the people in the Iraqi government did not accept the increased presence of the Americans. The Iraqi government is independent and sovereign. They should decide how to provide trainings for their military personnel.
“The government of Iraq, the parliament, we have a very good relationship with all of them. And—and we have an extensive relationship with the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government. And we have deepened our ties day by day.”
And Ahmadinejad made note of the fact that Iran can, indeed, count the US presence in the gulf. Tensions between the United States and Iran, he said, are inflamed by Washington so that they can maintain their huge military apparatus in the Persian Gulf:
“They create tensions. They create problems among nations because they want to maintain their military bases in the region.… What are the American bases doing in our region? Even the current year, they made military contract amounting to $90 billion with the countries of the region. If the United States is not going to provoke tension in our region, and if they do not make artificial threats, they would not be able to sell their arms.”