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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 November 2006, 13:13 GMT
Views from Iran, Syria and Iraq
An Iraqi, a Syrian and an Iranian give their views on suggestions that Iran and Syria could be invited by the US-led coalition to play a bigger role in stabilising Iraq.

NASIH OTHMAN, DOCTOR, SULEIMANIYA, IRAQI KURDISTAN

I think the regional powers are really part of the problem in Iraq.

Nasih Othman

The regimes of Iran and Syria are quite different to what the Americans want for the region.

These regimes have interests in Iraq and in manipulating the situation to their advantage. This is not necessarily in the interests of the Iraqi people.

Both Iran and Syria have common ground in wanting a turbulent Iraq. Both countries are under huge pressure: Iran for its nuclear ambitions and Syria for its role in Lebanon. So a problem in Iraq means the heat is off them.

Involving these two countries in Iraq's future might be one way forward, but only in consultation with the Iraqi government and people. Not unilaterally.

And more importantly, in consultation with the different ethnic groups in Iraq. I am Kurdish. I think the Kurds would be sceptical about such moves. They will fear being abandoned by the West again.

Wouldn't engagement with Iran and Syria be a sort of reward to Ahmadinejad and Assad? The leaders' allies in Iraq and their roles in their own country would be strengthened. It's a very tricky issue.

I'm not sure these countries would favour democracy in Iraq.

It all depends on how much the West will yield to the ambitions of these countries. And how much it is prepared to distance itself from its original objective of setting up a democracy in Iraq.

MARWAN KABALAN, 35, UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, DAMASCUS

I don't see this as good or bad. I see it as the only available option for the US if they really want to help Iraq.

They have to get the neighbours into the political process. The Bush administration has been trying all other options over the last three or four years. This is the only untried option.

The US has been trying to isolate Syria - hoping this would change its behaviour, perhaps even lead to the collapse of the regime.

The Syrian government is very threatened by the presence of US troops in the region

This hasn't happened. Syria, especially after the Hezbollah-Israel conflict in July, has demonstrated once again it is a key player.

Syria could benefit a lot from being engaged in the talks. It would break its isolation and it might be able to resume the peace process with Israel. Syria wants the Golan Heights back.

So the talks with the US would strengthen the regime.

Syria would benefit from the containment of the wave of extremism which has grown since the invasion of Iraq.

It's in Syria's interests for the US to withdraw from Iraq. Had the American forces succeeded in stabilising Iraq, Syria would have been next for regime change.

The Syrian government is very threatened by the presence of US forces in the region.

But the Americans are still presenting the same preconditions for talks to take place.

Syria needs something in return for complying with these conditions. Syria is saying - we are not a charity, after all!

SAEED LEYLAZ, 44, JOURNALIST, TEHRAN

The main foreign policy issue for the Islamic Republic of Iran is not Iraq, but the security of the Iranian regime and of the country.

Picture of Saeed Laylaz courtesy of ISNA

If the United States gave Iran security guarantees, the role and function of Iran in Iraq would change.

Of course we have some interests in Iraq. But usually the role of Iraq is greatly exaggerated.

I don't believe the majority of people in Iraq wants to follow us in having a religious government.

And I don't think Iran wants this either. If you establish a religious government in Iraq, the question arises: which country is the leader?

The Shia clerics in Iraq are a big threat for the clerics in Iran.

At the moment [the Iranian city of] Qom is the centre of clerics in the Shia world. The city has taken nearly 30 years to achieve this position, and the clerics don't want it to change.

I think the main source of violence in Iraq is from the Baathists, who are reacting against their loss of power. I believe Baath party people are trying to use religion as a shield.

Frankly, I don't believe Iran has any actual role in the increasing violence in Iraq.

But the US frequently repeat that they want to destroy the Iranian regime. They seem to be saying: "Please wait until we've finished in Iraq, then we'll come and destroy you."

Iran is too isolated in the world. That is why it is following its nuclear programme at such speed, because it has no strategic partner.

If Iran receives good security guarantees, it will be ready to talk about peace in the Middle East - about Iraq, and about suspending its enrichment of uranium.

But neither side trusts each other. Somehow this circle of mistrust must be broken.



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