January 15, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif continued on Monday his official visit to Iraq, which coincides with the first trip in a decade by Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
The monarch had landed in Baghdad on Monday for talks with senior officials, including President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi.
Zarif appeared to be alarmed by Jordan’s rapprochement with Iraq, announcing that President Hassan Rouhani will be paying a visit to Baghdad in March.
His trip also came a week after a surprise visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. President Donald Trump had also paid a surprise trip to Iraq in December.
The Iranian diplomat was in Baghdad at the head of a 35-member delegation, said the Iranian embassy.
It said that he is set to visit Erbil on Tuesday to meet with Kurdish officials. He will then head to the cities of Karbala and Najaf. He will conclude his trip on Thursday.
This was the first time that the mission announces the complete details of the minister’s trip, which observers said reflected Tehran’s concern with the new American activities in the region.
Iraqi MP Abdullah al-Khraibet told Asharq Al-Awsat that Iran was “annoyed” with the frequent trips by foreign officials to Iraq.
The Iranians “do not, under any circumstances, want to lose Iraq,” he explained.
Through intensifying visits to Iraq, Tehran wants to say to all foreign officials that it is still a powerful player in the country, he continued.
The Americans, meanwhile, are trying to promote themselves as another powerful party after a clear shift in their strategy in the region, he added.
He urged Iraqi leaderships to take advantage of the competition on Iraq, whether regional or international, for the benefit of the country and on condition that this competition does not escalate into a conflict.