As part of the Weekly Standard's ongoing effort cast blame on Iran (and, whenever possible, the Democrats) for the fact that reality has not cooperated with Bill Kristol's bong-hit fantasies about the salutary regional effects of an American invasion of Iraq , Jonathan Karl suggests that Iraq's refusal to send a representative to the Annapolis conference is due to...the pernicious influence of Iran:
[Iraqi PM] Maliki convened a secret cabinet meeting on the day of the conference to vote on whether to allow [Iraqi ambassador to the U.S. Samir] al-Sumaydi to go to Annapolis. A majority of the cabinet voted against attending. No one will say how the vote broke down, but a senior official tells me it wasn't even close. The public reason they gave for nonattendance was a "scheduling conflict."
But there is a more convincing reason: Iran. The Annapolis conference was designed in part to isolate Iran, the only country in the region not invited. Iran loudly condemned the conference and called for a boycott.
In the end, the one Arab country the Iranians seems to have had enough influence to convince to boycott the conference was Iraq. (The Kuwaitis were also a no-show, but they were not lobbied to attend like the Iraqis.) Maliki faced a dilemma: skip the conference and offend the United States or attend the conference and offend Iran.
Or, attend the conference and offend Iraqi voters, and further delegitimize his already weak government. Really, I don't think this stuff is difficult. What's interesting is that, having destroyed and recreated (at enormous cost to the U.S., and unimaginable cost to Iraqis) Iraq as the only sort-of democracy in the Arab world, U.S. policy must now contend with the fact that Iraq's politicians are beholden to real, live constituents, many of whom aren't actually hostile to Iran, and most of whom are deeply hostile to Israel, and who, strangely enough, prefer leaders who reflect those views. As our own philosopher-president observed some years ago, dictatorships are easier, both to run and to corral diplomatically.