The United States and Iran began their second round of talks on Iraq security Tuesday. Despite excitement sparked by the rarity of the encounter, any air of cooperation has apparently soured, with early word from Baghdad reporting that the Iranians have not responded favorably to the delivery of the US message.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki brought together US Ambassador Ryan Crocker with his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Kadhemi Qomi, on Tuesday for the second diplomatic encounter since the two countries severed ties in 1979. After the first exchange back in May, the countries agreed that a second meeting would be arranged.
US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Monday that the main purpose of the meeting would be to underscore the public message that Iran should stop meddling in Iraq.
"Sometimes in diplomacy, it is worth taking the opportunity for one more meeting, for taking the opportunity to convey something in person and directly, he said. "It's an opportunity to speak directly to the Iranian Government and say, 'Here is our message to you. Here's what we're saying. Play a positive role in Iraq.'"
Iran has always providing support to Iraqi insurgents and militias, so it's no real surprise the Iranian delegation had a negative reaction to the message Ambassador Crocker delivered.
According to the Associated Press, an Iraqi official who was present at the meeting room said Crocker and Qomi were involved in a heated exchange early in the talks.
Crocker reportedly confronted the Iranians with charges that Tehran was supporting Shiite militiamen killing U.S. troops, providing them with weapons and training, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to disclose the information.
Qomi dismissed the allegations, saying the Americans had no proof, the official said.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad-Ali Hosseini said Tuesday from Tehran that US accusations would not help the ongoing Iran-US talks on Iraq.
Commenting on the latest accusations made by the US officials over Iran's alleged aid to Iraqi militants, Hosseini advised the US side to stop using "instrumental approaches." "It is crystal clear that the main objective behind repetition of such baseless accusations against Iran is to pursue US propaganda fuss and psychological warfare against the country," Hosseini argued.
Ambassador Ryan Crocker is scheduled to hold a press conference later today to discuss the meeting, so check back for an update.