The Los Angeles Times reports that the real winner of President George W. Bush’s war in Iraq is the Islamic Republic of Iran. “Iraqi officials say Washington’s political influence in Baghdad is now virtually nonexistent. Hussein is dead. But Iran has become an indispensable broker among Baghdad’s new Shiite elite, and its influence continues to grow,” the Times says.
Secretary of State John Kerry travelled to Baghdad last week to ask Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to stop Iranians from using Iraqi airspace to fly of weapons and supplies to Bashar al-Assad’s forces fighting Syrian rebels but he was rebuffed. Maliki claimed that there is no evidence that the flights contain anything but humanitarian supplies.
“The Americans have no role. Nobody listens to them. They lost their power in this country,” said Deputy Prime Minister Saleh Mutlaq, a Sunni, commenting on the disappearance of the Americans as a broker for most of Iraq’s disputes.
And the Iranians have filled the vacuum. “At the moment, Iran has something akin to veto power in Iraq, in that Maliki is careful not to take decisions that might alienate Iran,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
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In other news:
The Washington Post reports: A U.S. Army veteran was charged with conspiracy Thursday for fighting alongside a Syrian rebel group linked to al-Qaeda. Eric Harroun, 30, known to Syrians as “the American,” crossed into northern Syria in January and joined members of Jabhat al-Nusra to fight against the Syrian military, according to an FBI agent’s affidavit in support of a criminal complaint filed by prosecutors in federal court in Alexandria.
The New York Times reports: North Korean state media said on Friday that the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, ordered his missile units to be ready to strike the United States and South Korea, which South Korean officials said could signal either preparations for missile tests or just more blustering.
The Post adds: U.S. officials are taking seriously a string of provocative threats from the North Korean government, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday, hours after the U.S. military dispatched stealth planes capable of dropping nuclear-armed missiles for a training exercise in South Korea.