K.S. Rajan (29 Dec 2011)
"report by BILL KOENIG"


 
 
 The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq gives
Tehran more freedom to exert its
influence in Iraq, according to analysts
Iran is prepared to expand military and security cooperation with neighboring Iraq, a top
Iranian military official said -- a week after U.S. forces pulled out of Iraq.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran is ready to establish, boost and expand all types of military, defense and security cooperation with the friendly and brotherly nation of Iraq," Iran's armed forces chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi said, according to a report Sunday by the semi-official Fars news agency.
The Middle East neighbors have enjoyed closer ties in recent years, especially as Iraq's Shia Muslim majority has solidified its power in the absence of former leader Saddam Hussein, a Sunni Muslim. Iran's theocracy is Shia-led.
Iraq political blocs 'talking to Iran' over deadlock

Tareq al-Hashemi speaks during an interview with AFP
in Qalachwalan, north of Sulaimaniyah, on Sunday
(AFP, Shwan Mohammed)
Iraqi political blocs have held talks with Iran over a standoff sparked by a warrant for the arrest of the country's Sunni Arab vice president that has stoked sectarian tensions, officials said on Tuesday.
Charges that Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi ran a death squad have plunged Iraq into political crisis, and representatives of multiple parties have spoken to top officials in Tehran, according to senior political sources in Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region, where Hashemi is holed up.
The United States, which completed a troop pullout a week ago, has long charged that Iran plays a nefarious role in Iraq by funding and supporting militias, and interfering in Iraqi politics, charges Tehran rejects.
"Iraqi parties are contacting Iran to mediate over the Hashemi issue," an official close
to Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said, speaking on condition of anonymity