The first point might be more telling if Iraq were not, as we all surely know by now, a democracy. It was Iraq's democratically elected leaders -- including the Kurdish president and Shiite prime minister -- who welcomed the genocidal terror master with fanfare, regardless of whether some Iraqis took to the streets (or not). For years now, these same elected leaders have been effectively intertwining Iraq's economy with Iran's to the point where Radio Free Liberty analyst Kathleen Ridolfo recently noted that "observers say Iraq is becoming economically, if not politically, subordinate to Iran." Little wonder, then, that the Iraqi government put out the red carpet for the Thug of Tehran.
This bilateral relationship -- the energy accords, export market (Iraq is Iran's largest), oil trade, cooperation in education, customs, insurance, transportation, industrial projects, tourism, Iran's billion-dollar loan (interest free), and, to cap it off, the joint statement condemning Israel for taking action in Gaza to stop Hamas rockets -- presents a conflict as the U.S. combats the very terrorism Iran exports. For example, last year, the U.S. Treasury blacklisted Iran's Bank Melli for its involvement in terrorism and the pursuit of nuclear weaponry. Last year, Ridolfo reported, Bank Melli opened a branch in Baghdad. (No word on whether Ahmadinejad opened an account during his visit.)
As for Point No. 2, who can claim to know the inside skinny on the Sistani meeting? One possibility, reported by Stratfor.com, was that domestic Iranian opposition -- not Sistanian opposition -- might have been a factor. Perhaps more to the point is the fact that Sistani, who retains Iranian citizenship, has met with every other Iranian government officials to visit Iraq before Ahmadinejad. And that includes Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, national security official Ali Larijani and, shortly before Ahmadinejad arrived, Tehran Mayor Mohammed-Baqer Qalibaf. Sounds to me as if Iran is too close to Iraq for U.S. comfort.
I try to look on the bright side -- really. Just not when the brightness is blinding.