Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Tuesday that US political influence in Iraq is “collapsing rapidly” and that Iran is ready to help fill any power vacuum. He also defended Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a fellow Shiite Muslim criticized by US politicians for failing to reconcile Iraq’s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
“The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly,” Ahmadinejad said at a news conference, referring to US troops in Iraq. “Soon, we will see a huge power vacuum in the region. Of course, we are prepared to fill the gap, with the help of neighbors and regional friends like Saudi Arabia.”
The mention of a Saudi role might have been aimed at allaying regional fears that Ahmadinejad wants to dominate in Iraq. Though Saudi Arabia and Iran have not cooperated in the past, it “doesn’t mean it can’t happen,” he said.
In defending al-Maliki, Ahmadinejad said the United States is interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs.
Some US politicians have called for replacing al-Maliki because his government hasn’t forged national unity. “They rudely say the Iraqi prime minister and the constitution must change,” Ahmadinejad said of US critics. “Who are you? Who has given you the right to ask for such a change?” he added.