|Al-Kadhimiya Mosque in 1998 (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)|
Of course today a considerable amount of the controversy in Iraq stems from the fact that many Sunnis feel marginalized in the political process under the present Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Nevertheless one mustn't readily forget those days when the Shia were marginalized by the Tikriti mafia clan which ruled Iraq for decades.
The 1998 Associated Press report quotes then State Department spokesman James P. Rubin outlining how, "We are not going to complain about any effort Iran makes to assist Shiites or others suffering under Saddam's rule. But we are not working with them [the Iranians] in any shape or form or soliciting their support."
Those comments were also made when there was a considerable thaw in post-1979 Iran-U.S. relations. While the report stresses the fact that the U.S. maintained Iran and Saddam's Iraq were sponsors of terrorism the Clinton administration was nevertheless interested in the potential prospects for change the considerably more moderate tone coming from Tehran under then President Khatami could present.
Similarly today we have a president in Tehran who promulgates a more moderate policy and says he seeks a more productive relationship between Tehran and Washington. Indeed it was this president who only yesterday suggested that Iran may intervene in Iraq in order to protect Shiite shrines there. A statement that can be interpreted as a possible plan for direct military intervention into Iraq against ISIS.
Contrary to the inaccurate statement frequently repeated by numerous media outlets reporting on the possibility of American/Iranian cooperation in Iraq today such cooperation in the post-1979 era would certainly not be "unprecedented", as the Herat campaign of November 2001 clearly proves.