The results of Monday's meeting between US and Iranian delegations in Baghdad may not have been termed a major breakthrough by those directly involved, but simple occurrence of such an encounter after 25+ years of diplomatic estrangement is significant. Ambassador Ryan Crocker has also indicated that Monday's "positive" exchange may lead to more extensive cooperation, and the Iranian representative to the meeting reported offering security assistance for Iraq's army.
Crocker recounted that the Iranian delegation, led by Iranian ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi, proposed a "trilateral security mechanism" that would include all three countries, and also suggested arranging a second meeting for further discussion.
The American ambassador said the security proposal would need to be examined closely and that the US would consider a second meeting when Iran formally proposes it.
"The talks proceeded positively. What we need to see is Iranian action on the ground," U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker told reporters after the meeting in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Green Zone office.
Maliki did not attend the talks, but did give an inaugural speech before leading the group to a conference room, in which he expressed optimism for the U.S.-Iranian exchange.
"I welcome you all to Baghdad, which is witnessing the first meeting between representatives from the U.S. and Iranian governments to discuss the Iraqi affair," Maliki said. The Iraqi premier said he hoped "the meeting would act as a significant step towards security and stability in Iraq and the region."
Ambassador Qomi told a post-meeting press conference that Iran had offered to provide training and support to Iraq's army. "The Islamic Republic of Iran announced its willingness to provide all forms of support including co-operation and arming (the military) with weapons and training," Qomi said.
Crocker briefed Baghdad reporters following the meeting on what had been discussed and what topics were avoided during the discussion.
The talks--as required by Iran in advance--stayed strictly focused on Iraq's security situation. Crocker said Ambassador Qomi did not raise the issue of the Iranians currently in US custody, or the country's nuclear program. "I laid out before the Iranians a number of direct, specific concerns about their behavior in Iraq -- their support for militias that are fighting both the Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces," Crocker said.
"The fact (is) that a lot of explosives and ammunitions used by these groups are coming from Iran ... The Iranians did not respond directly to that, they did again emphasize that their policy is support of the government," he said.
The Iranian foreign ministry announced in advance of the meeting that the US and Iranian delegations would have a joint press conference with Prime Minister Maliki, but Ambassador Crocker ended up going solo for his post-meeting report to the press.
The consequences of the meeting have yet to work their way into the official Iranian stance towards the US, and the typical angry rhetoric from top Iranian officials did not abate on Monday.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said in a speech at the 17th Persian Gulf conference that the occupying powers must announce pullout of Iraq to stop the fighting.
"We believe that the best way to put an end to alarming bloodbath in Iraq and spread of violence to the neighboring countries is that the occupying forces to leave the country and let the Iraqi government and its nation restore national security," he said.
Iran strongly opposes to any sectarian violence or religious conflicts in Iraq, Mottaki said.
"Unfortunately, the wrong policies of the occupiers have left lethal consequences in Iraq," he said.
"We believe that withdrawal of occupying powers from Iraq and collective assistance of neighboring countries to Iraqi democratic government would put an end to the current human losses," he said.
Any instability and insecurity could foment extensive consequences in other countries in the region, he added.