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Iran, U.S. to Discuss Security in Iraq

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

And I'm Renee Montagne.

The top U.S. diplomat in Iraq says Iran's support for Iraqi militias has risen since the United States and Iran first talked in May.

Ambassador RYAN CROCKER (U.S. Ambassador to Iraq): What we've been seeing on the ground over the last couple of months has in many respects represented an escalation, not a de-escalation.

MONTAGNE: That's Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, speaking today after meeting with his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad. They met to discuss the security situation in Iraq - their second meeting after nearly three decades of silence between Washington and Tehran.

NPR's Jamie Tarabay is covering this story from Baghdad. And Jamie, the ambassador, Ryan Crocker, doesn't seem happy with the progress made since that first meeting.

JAMIE TARABAY: No, and today, actually, he did show some signs of exasperation. The meeting went for about seven hours, which included a break for lunch, and Mr. Crocker hinted that it might have gone a bit shorter if the Iranian side hadn't gone off on different tangents during their discussions.

He said that - and I quote him, you know, he said that he was very full and frank in the discussion in with what he brought to the table with what he said the American military has evidence against Iranian activities in Iraq. He said, you know, it's a very clear case. We have individuals in custody. We have weapons and ammunition. And there's no question, he says, that this support is going on. And he said it's nothing that we need to put you in the court of law. He said they made it clear to the Iranians that the Americans know what they're doing, and it's now up to the Iranians to decide what they're going to do next.

MONTAGNE: Was there any response from the Iranian side to this?

TARABAY: Well, the Iranians have stuck to their line that they have absolutely nothing to do with any of these militia attacks against coalition troops and American troops. They say that the security and stability of Iraq is one of the biggest priorities for the Iranian government, that they all agree that it is in everyone's best interest that Iraq is stable.

MONTAGNE: There was some agreement, then, in this meeting?

TARABAY: Yes. They did agree to set up a security subcommittee, which was going to carry on meeting and talking about how they're going to restore stability to Iraq. Who the members of this meeting, of this committee will be, when they'll begin and what level of responsibility they're going to have, that's still being discussed at the moment. But at least on this particular issue, they've managed to move forward.

MONTAGNE: And Jamie, you just got back after being embedded with U.S. troops for a week. How is the new security plan, the new U.S. plan, affecting the situation?

TARABAY: I was embedded in the neighborhood of Amariya in west Baghdad, which is basically one of the very last holdouts for Sunnis in the capital. The U.S. military says that from about six or seven months ago, al-Qaida had begun using Amariya as a base for its operations against U.S. troops in Baghdad. And in the last six or seven weeks, the local population has turned against al-Qaida in the same way that the Sunni tribes in Anbar in the west of Iraq had done against al-Qaida operating there.

And then the U.S. military officials that I was with said that had it not been for the surge and had they not been able to go from working in a larger area to just specifically in Amariya, this wouldn't never have progressed as well as they say it has to this point. So they believe that the surge is very much helping them in this area.

MONTAGNE: Thanks very much. NPR's Jamie Tarabay speaking from Baghdad.

As diplomatic efforts continue, Ambassador Crocker and his military counterpart, General David Petraeus, are putting forward a new military plan for securing Iraq. The plan aims to restore security in Baghdad and other places by next summer. But it says achieving sustainable security nationwide would likely take another year, to the summer of 2009. That timetable is at odds with those favored by some members of Congress. The plan was first reported in this morning's New York Times and has not yet been finalized. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Jamie Tarabay
After reporting from Iraq for two years as NPR's Baghdad Bureau Chief, Jamie Tarabay is now embarking on a two year project reporting on America's Muslims. The coverage will take in the country's approx 6 million Muslims, of different ethnic, socio-economic and cultural backgrounds, and the issues facing their daily lives as Americans.