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WASHINGTON – Informed sources say that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is to pay a “surprise” visit to Iran soon, and he may be carrying a message from U.S. President Barack Obama, according to a report from Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.

Al-Maliki is close to the Iranian government and is seen as a conduit in addition to the Swiss channel to convey messages to Tehran. Because the United States and Iran lack formal diplomatic relations, they use the Swiss Embassy in Tehran to convey any messages. While there is no official indication of the content of any message from the U.S. president, it is possible that al-Maliki may be taking word about wanting to pursue talks between the U.S. and Iran.

It largely was due to Iran’s influence and Iranian-backed Shi’ites in the government that prompted al-Maliki to reject U.S. appeals to extend the Status of Forces Agreement beyond last December’s deadline. Those U.S. forces that were in Iraq toward the end of last year then were sent to neighboring Kuwait, which also raised questions on the limits imposed in the U.S.-Kuwaiti Status of Forces agreement.

Al-Maliki will be looking to Iran for increased infrastructure reconstruction assistance and for military training against the rising Sunni insurgents who are being joined by al-Qaida and backed by Sunni Saudi Arabia. Despite all this, the U.S. still is seriously considering selling some 36 F-16s to the Iraqi government, with the hope of maintaining some semblance of U.S. military presence in Iraq.

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