As soon as the Iraqi flag was hoisted Wednesday afternoon at the entrance to the Iraqi Embassy at 1801 P St., switchboard operators there replaced their greeting of "Iraqi Interest Section" with "Iraqi Embassy."
The raising of the old green, white, red and black Iraqi flag and the new greeting were just two of the many ceremonial signals emerging since the transfer of political authority to a government still in its infancy.
Iraq's ambassador-designate, Rend Rahim Francke, who in recent months has assiduously managed affairs at the imposing brick building, presided over a modest ceremony with the Minister of Irrigation, Abdul-Latif Rashid, who was visiting from Baghdad. State Department diplomatic security agents, equipped with corkscrew wire earphone gear, appeared on the premises to guard the visiting official.
A State Department spokesman, Adam Ereli, confirmed at a briefing Wednesday that Prime Minister Ayad Allawi had recognized the existence of diplomatic relations between Iraq and the United States in response to a request from President Bush, and on Thursday, the State Department announced "full diplomatic relations" between the two countries.
The formal process of requesting agreement for the Iraqi ambassador, which would lead to full accreditation, has not yet begun, according to officials from the department's office of protocol. The presentation of credentials might not happen for a while, but Iraqis working at the embassy here have been entrusted with the power to take care of the tasks at hand, a source close to the embassy pointed out.
Rahim Francke, who still carries a U.S. passport, a document she may have to give up if confirmed as ambassador, was not available for comment.
Welcome News From Turkey
Turkey's Deputy Chief of Mission here, Mustafa Naci Saribas, was in his office Tuesday on Massachusetts Avenue watching Turkish news broadcasts via satellite, following the latest news from the NATO summit in Istanbul. He looked pleased and proud that, despite anxieties over security after a series of bombings in Turkey, the gathering on June 28-29 had concluded without a hitch.
"This summit has been a critical historical moment for us," Saribas said, in reference to a successful NATO meeting in a Muslim country dedicated to democracy and reforms.
He mentioned NATO's decision to increase its role in Afghanistan and to expand the presence of its troops in villages outside Kabul so the country can prepare for elections. The 26 countries attending the summit also agreed that NATO should train Iraqi security and police units. Saribas said the specifics of the programs had not been determined, adding that Iraqi security officers would be able to attend the NATO Defense College in Rome.
As violence and kidnappings of foreign citizens in Iraq continue, actions that Turkey has strongly condemned, the diplomat said: "We don't see an alternative to success there. We have to continue on the path into making it a stable, democratic country, and this will have a huge impact on the region."
He reiterated Turkey's concern that Iraq remain a united nation with an even distribution of its natural resources, particularly oil revenue. Turkey has been concerned oil fields in northern Iraq where Iraqi Kurds predominate could fall into Kurdish hands and bolster Kurds in Turkey seeking to secede. "All Iraqis should benefit from the riches of Iraq; otherwise the system will not work," he added.
Saribas responded cautiously to questions about a recent article in the New Yorker reporting that Turkish officials had reacted angrily to reports that Israeli intelligence operatives were active in Kurdish areas with the aim of training Kurds and establishing a foothold there.
"We consulted with our Israeli friends. They told us this is not true, and we have to believe what they say," he said.
When Bush and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan were asked by reporters in Ankara whether the Israeli-Turkish relationship was discussed, both said no, Saribas pointed out. Turkey wants good relations with all its neighboring countries, especially Syria, Iran and Iraq, he said. Before the 1991 Gulf War, Iraq was Turkey's second-largest trade partner.
"We give our support to this government and to efforts to prepare it for free elections. We have to try to help in any way we can. The recent United Nations resolution has been very helpful," he said about the new Iraqi government.