BAGHDAD – Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif left Baghdad on Monday for three nights in the Iraqi capital, where he failed to arrange a meeting with top Shi’ite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf.
The Iranian minister was due to head for Najaf after ending his talks in Baghdad, which arrived on Saturday night, but his visit to Najaf was abruptly canceled.
Iraqi political observers attributed Zarif’s failure to reach Sistani to the fact that Najaf’s reference was trying to distance itself from any developments between the United States and Iran.
Zarif announced from Baghdad that his country does not need Iraqi mediation with the United States, in response to the US Charge d’Affaires in Iraq, Joe Hood, who denied knowledge of the existence of any Iraqi mediation in the file of the crisis with Iran.
These cross-cutting declarations have embarrassed the Iraqi political parties, the US-Iran mediation file, as an opportunity to run away from the country’s persistent problems of street defiance of the government for its poor performance in the service portfolio.
Political sources in Baghdad said that Zarif had hoped to invest Sistani’s approval to receive Iranian President Hassan Rowhani, who visited Iraq mid-last month and visited the supreme authority of the Shiites of Iraq and the world of the Twelve at his home in Najaf.
Tehran is counting on the support Sistani can offer in confronting the United States, at the media level, and at least among Shiite Muslims.
The reformist wing of Rohani and Zarif is locked in a fierce power struggle with the hard wing led by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and supported by most of the generals of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which the United States has designated a terrorist organization.
Experts believe that Sistani’s support may be crucial to swaying the reformist trend, but warn that the administration’s pressure on the Iranian regime may push everyone in Tehran to the brink of militancy.
Sistani’s reception of Rohani at the time was a reference to the position of the supreme authority, which refuses to accept any Iraqi official for years, because of rampant corruption and poor performance of official institutions.
“It was necessary for Sharif to know Iraqi politicians their true size for the conflict, so they were slapped when they were denied the process of mediating between Tehran and Washington,” said an Iraqi political observer.
The observer asked in a statement to “Arabs” who has such a task must be qualified and acceptable to both parties. As far as Iran and the United States are concerned, Iraq is too weak to suggest anything to them as they take care of its affairs. “If the acting US ambassador is lightly denied, Zarif’s denial will have a heavy impact, leading to consequences for the warlords to take advantage of the government’s vulnerability,” he said.
He expected Sistani not to be part of an internal Iranian conflict that could erupt between hardliners and reformists on the grounds of accepting or refusing to negotiate with the United States. Although he received Rouhani, he did not accept him as a reformer but as president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, which is Sistani one of its citizens. His reluctance to welcome Zarif reflects a cautious stance on what is happening in Iran from an unspoken difference of opinion among the parties to the regime.