Ahmad Rahima / Azzaman – 2008-02-29 23:33:26
BAGHDAD (February 29, 2008) — Baghdad Mayor Saber al-Aisawi has asked Iranian firms’ help to upgrade level of municipal services in the capital.
The mayor has signed a joint agreement with Tehran under which Iranian firms are to start developing the city, home to more than six million people.
Iranian firms are to enter into joint cooperation deals with Iraqi counterparts “to construct roads, bridges, tunnels and help with garbage collection,” said Aisawi.
The deal is estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars.
Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer was in Baghdad last week and has promised to send in teams of engineers and technicians to reconstruct the war-torn capital.
“Iranian firms will help modernize the capital by building new parks, expanding green areas, constructing multi-storey car parks, improving the city’s sewage system and drinking water plants and network,” Aisawi said.
Aisawi’s counterpart is reported to have vowed to open a branch of Tehran’s municipal department in Baghdad, saying that the city’s inhabitants should very soon feel the difference.
Tehran has even promised to start work on the much delayed project of Baghdad metro.
In the years since the U.S. invasion of 2003, Iran has emerged as Iraq’s main trade partner. Trade exchange is estimated at billions of dollars.
Iranian firms are doing brisk business in most parts of Iraq apart from predominantly Sunni cities where anger at Tehran’s activities in the country is high.
Even the Kurdish-held north, a relatively safe enclave and most sympathetic to the U.S., relies heavily on trade with Iran for survival.
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US Wary of Iran’s growing activity in Iraq
U.S. military officials are voicing increasing concern that Iranian-backed Shiite militants are stepping up their activities in Iraq, as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad prepares to make a historic visit to Baghdad that is expected to reinforce Iran’s expanding influence.
The U.S. military refers to the shadowy, cell-like structures operated by Shiite extremists as Special Groups and says their precise relationship with Iran’s government isn’t clear.
The US military is certain, however, that they receive arms, training and funding from the Quds Force, the elite and secretive foreign-operations wing of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“We don’t assess necessarily that the central government of Iran is behind this but we are certain there are elements, including the Quds Force, who continue to train, finance and equip these people,” said senior military spokesman Rear Adm. Gregory Smith. [Americans have said so much over the last six years that has been proven false time and time again.
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