Iran and the US held “frank and serious” security talks chaired by Iraq as they inaugurated a joint security committee aimed at curbing the country’s rampant insurgency. The Iraqi government hosted the first sub-committee meeting of experts inside the heavily fortified Green Zone compound in the heart of Baghdad.
Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi and his US counterpart Ryan Crocker then held follow-up talks hosted by Iraqi national security advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie to review the committee’s work, officials said.
Americans and Iranians described the talks as “frank and serious”, but the chief Iranian delegate openly blamed US policy for the raging violence in Iraq.
“The discussion was frank and serious, and focused as agreed on security problems in Iraq. We agreed to continue discussions at a date to be established through diplomatic channels,” US embassy spokesman Philip Reeker said.
The US sub-committee team was headed by Marcie Ries, minister-counselor for political and military affairs, and the Iranian delegation by its foreign ministry point man on Iraq, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.
Its creation was the only substantial outcome of a second round of landmark talks between the US and Iranian ambassadors held two weeks ago in Baghdad.
“After the sub-committee meeting, ambassador Crocker met with his Iranian counterpart, ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi and Iraqi national security Dr Rubaie at their request and continued the discussion on security,” Reeker said.
The Iranian chief delegate, Amir-Abdollahian, said the sub-committee convened for two and a half hours at the Iraqi prime minister’s office.
“Dialogue and negotiation was conducted between the experts in a frank and transparent manner,” he told a news conference, confirming the US and Iranian ambassadors had met “briefly” to study what the experts had discussed.
“It was serious… All discussions were about security and how the Iraqi government can achieve security and stability,” he added.
“We told the Americans they cannot deal with terrorism selectively… They should confront terrorism in all its shapes and sizes,” he said.
“We criticized the American measures against the terrorist groups in Iraq. We also discussed the wrong policies practiced by the occupier which led to the loss of security in this country,” he said.
All three sides said talks would continue, but none said when.
Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi stressed that the Iranians and Americans were willing to cooperate at what he called “positive” talks.
“Both stressed their cooperation. They pledged not to allow terror, which is harming Iraq, to fight sectarianism. These are important issues,” he said.
On July 24, the Iranian and American ambassadors to Baghdad were unable to agree during talks on ways to restore security to war-torn Iraq.
But Iraq said the agreed tripartite security committee would seek to curb militia activity, battle Al-Qaeda and secure borders.
The United States, which invaded Iraq in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein, broke off relations with Iran a little after the Islamic Revolution in 1978.
The two countries are at loggerheads over a range of issues including Iran’s nuclear program, which the United States claims is aimed at producing nuclear weapons, an accusation vehemently denied by Tehran.
Relations have also been chilled by the detention in Iraq by US forces of at least five Iranian diplomats.