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By Safa Haeri
Posted Friday, April 9, 2004

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TEHRAN, 9 Apr. (IPS) Former Iranian President Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on Friday said the United States had claimed to help establish a democratic system in Iraq but what they are doing now is massacring large crowds of people.

Speaking to worshipers during the traditional Friday prayers in Tehran, Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani was commenting on the recent, unabated confrontations opposing American and the Allied forces with Sunni Iraqis in Fallujah, north of Baghdad and in other southern cities with armed groups loyal to Hojjatoleslam Moqtada al-Sadr, a young Shi’a cleric opposed to the presence of foreign powers in Iraq.

The engagements, the heaviest in the year that the United States and Britain invaded Iraq and toppled the former dictator Saddam Hoseyn continued Friday for the seventh strait day, leaving hundreds of dead on both sides.

"The United States attacked Iraq under the excuse of fighting terrorism in the region but has got stuck in the quagmire in Iraq and has failed to achieve its pre-set aims and objectives", Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani said


Insurgents also kidnapped three Japanese and other nationals, threatening to kill them if their nations, including Japan and Spain, did not withdraw their forces from Iraq.

As the battles spreads to dominantly Shi’a populated cities to the south of the Capital, Western, Iranian and Arab analysts now talk of "a new Vietnam in the making", or "the third Iraq war".

"The United States attacked Iraq under the excuse of fighting terrorism in the region but has got stuck in the quagmire in Iraq and has failed to achieve its pre-set aims and objectives", Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani said, quoted by the official Iranian news agency IRNA.

"The Untied States was in fact after finding domination over the oil-rich Iraq, eliminating Saddam Hoseyn, influencing the world oil market through paving the way for Iraq to joint the oil exporting countries, creating a foot hole in Iraq to establish a military base in the sensitive region of the Persian Gulf", he added.

He also said the United States aimed to weak the Muslim countries in the region including Lebanon and Syrian, to support the Zionist regime of Israel and to pursue efforts to overthrow the Islamic system of Iran.

However, he offered an unlikely olive branch, saying not Iran did not want to intervene in the present Iraqi conflict, but it is even ready to help the Americans solving the problem, provided they get out of the country.

"We helped the Americans in Afghanistan and are ready to do the same with them in Iraq", he said, describing the situation as both "a threat and a new occasion".


"We helped the Americans in Afghanistan and are ready to do the same with them in Iraq" Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani added


A year after seizing Baghdad with much fanfare, the US-led forces are struggling to maintain control of central and southern Iraq against stiff resistance from Sunni and Shiite insurgents, IRNA commented.

Occupation troops, facing a June 30 deadline for restoring Iraqi self-rule, are locked in fierce fighting or forced to back off in cities west, east and south of the capital as well as the key southern port of Basra.

"The scenes of combat are in stark contrast to images of confident US troops rolling through the capital a year ago, as they toppled the regime of Saddam Hoseyn", the Agency added.

"Even the rivals of the American President George W. Bush are presenting him as a war criminal and call for his trial in court", Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani told worshippers.

Just 40 percent of Americans approve of the way Bush is handling Iraq, according to a Pew Research poll released this week, a new low and down from 59 percent in January.

As the Chairman of the Expediency Council, is considered the second man in command after Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the leader of the Islamic Republic.

"Iraq under the rule of the Americans has become a heaven for terrorists world wide, with terrorists moving from Afghanistan to Iraq, adding to the difficulties of the Americans in the occupied land", he said, adding that new groups have emerged in Iraq fighting American occupation.

Indirectly, the former Iranian president said the American had made a great mistake in disbanding Iraqi army and the security services, "pushing thousands of well-trained and armed people in the wilderness, unemployed, angry, thirsty to revenge".

He described the Jaysh al Mahdi, or the Army of Mahdi that is controlled by Mr. Moqtada al-Sadr as "young, motivated people with great ambitions" but added that the real power in Iraq is in the hands of the Hawzeh, or clerical circles that can", with a single fatwa, change everything".

"If the hawzahs are quiet now, it is for the safety of the Iraqi people. They are all against the presence of foreign powers and are waiting for an international decision that if does not come, they could create havoc", he warned.

According to Mr. Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Iranian Revolution had influenced the situation in the region and other states adding that Iraq and Afghanistan are two regional states influenced by the developments in Iran and the people in those countries are acting based on the Iranian model.

"Following the Islamic Revolution in Iran the Iraqi people tried to establish an Iranian-style Islamic system in their country but the Ba’ath regime of Saddam repressed them with force and that is why a large number of Iraqis have immigrated to Iran to seek shelter", he noted.

The coalition announced Friday a halt to its drive in the Sunni bastion of Fallujah, a constant theatre of conflict since Saddam’s ouster, to pave the way for talks with the insurgents.

Armed insurgents seized control Friday of the highway linking Fallujah with the mostly Sunni town of Abu Gharib to the east.

The southern city of Nasiriyah was under the control of Iraqi police after Italian troops agreed to pull back in the wake of deadly clashes with Shiite militiamen Tuesday that claimed 15 lives. ENDS IRAQ 9404




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