Iraq Says Iran’s Shift Toward West Is Serious

Iran soldiersIraq’s foreign minister said Saturday that the new Iranian government led by President Hassan Rouhani offers “the best chance after 34 years of animosity” to improve relations with the United States and should be taken seriously.

Hoshyar Zebari also told The Associated Press in an interview that he is working behind the scenes to try to unite disparate Syrian opposition groups ahead of a November peace conference and to promote a thaw in Tehran’s relations with the United States.

Zebari said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked Iraq at their meeting Saturday to press the opposition to come with one delegation and one position. The U.N. chief also told him he heard no opposition to Iran, an ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, participating in the upcoming Geneva peace conference.

“Before he would hear outright rejection,” Zebari said. “This time, everybody was quiet. Nobody objected.”

Iraq is in a unique position in the Middle East. Its Shiite-dominated government has comfortable ties to Shiite Iran — an important ally of Bashar Assad’s Syrian regime. And according to Zebari, Iraq also has good relations with both sides in the Syrian conflict. It also has strong ties to Washington following the 10-year, American-led war that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein.

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