TEHRAN, Iran – President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad warned Tuesday that a power vacuum is imminent in Iraq and said that Iran was ready to help fill the gap.
"The political power of the occupiers is collapsing rapidly," Ahmadinejad said at a press conference in Tehran, referring to U.S. 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, and with the help of the Iraqi nation."
Although Ahmadinejad did not elaborate how Iran could fill a power gap, his bold remarks reflected what may be perceived as Iran's eagerness for an increasing role on its neighbor's political scene.
Earlier this month, during a visit here by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iranian leaders said that only a U.S. pullout would bring peace to Iraq and pledged their government would do its best to help stabilize the country.
Soon after al-Maliki's trip, the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced that Ahmadinejad had accepted an invitation to Baghdad by the Iraqi prime minister for a state visit. But the ministry added that a final decision on the trip had not been made.
Ahmadinejad accused the United States of interfering in Iraq's internal affairs, and dismissed U.S. criticism of al-Maliki's unsuccessful efforts to reconcile the country's Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
"They rudely say (the Iraqi) prime minister and the constitution must change," Ahmadinejad said. "Who are you? Who has given you the right" to ask for such a change, he added, addressing the U.S. critics of al-Maliki, who is also a Shiite.
Ahmadinejad dismissed the possibility of any U.S. military action against Iran.
"I tell you resolutely that there is no possibility, whatsoever, of such a decision in the U.S.," Ahmadinejad told reporters. "Even, if they were to decide to do so, they would be unable to carry it out."
U.S. has accused Iran of being behind attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq — a claim the Iraqi government has only partially backed, saying Iran could have a role in the attacks. Iran has denied the accusations.