Baghdad: The ultimate US foe Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is set to land in Baghdad on Sunday under the watchful eyes of American forces, Iraqi officials told Gulf News.
Ahmadinejad will be the first Iranian president to step foot in Iraq on a trip many see as symbolic of Tehran's new influence and which aims to boost business and other ties with a country with which Iran fought an eight-year war in the 1980s.
According to Iraqi security officials, the complex security arrangements for the visit are no less important than its political aspects.
"It is an unprecedented and complex scene because President Ahmadinejad will be in the midst of thousands of American troops and warplanes," Rasheed Al Hussaini, an officer in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, told Gulf News.
Ahmadinejad's plane will land at Baghdad International Airport, an area exclusively controlled and monitored by American forces, he said.
The road from the airport to his place of residence is a highway also crowded with American military vehicles.
Certainly he will glimpse military uniforms of the US, a country which is threatening Iran with war or devastating air strikes over a nuclear standoff.
The significance of the trip, say analysts and diplomats, is that it is happening despite Washington's accusation that Tehran supplies weapons to militias that are killing US troops in the war-torn country.
In Tehran, Ahmadinejad declared yesterday that Iran was the world's "number one" power.
"Today the name of Iran means a firm punch in the teeth of the powerful and it puts them in their place," Ahmadinejad said in a speech to families who lost loved ones in the Iran-Iraq war.