Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim (R) receives Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif (L) in Baghdad during an official visit. (AFP)

March 11, 2019

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived Saturday in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, to prepare for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s three-day visit starting Monday.

Zarif will hold a series of meetings with his Iraqi counterpart, Mohammed Ali Hakim, to discuss the program of Rouhani’s visit, said a source in the Iraqi government.

He arrived in Baghdad as part of a senior Iranian delegation.

Assistant of the head of Iranian presidential office for Relations and Media Parvez Ismaili announced that Rouhani’s visit to Baghdad comes as a response to an official invitation from President Barham Ahmed Salih and Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

The visit will focus on bilateral relations and regional cooperation between the two countries, Ismaili explained, adding that Rouhani will also visit Ali al-Sistani.

On the other hand, Head of Iraq’s Fatah Alliance Hadi al-Ameri welcomed Rouhani’s visit, expressing his rejection to US military presence in Iraq.

“We oppose any on-the-ground presence (of US troops) or US bases in Iraq,” Ameri said.

“Even if the US military forces intend to stay in Iraq for training or technical programs, it must take place at the request of the Iraqi government, and any such request from Baghdad has to be discussed and appropriate decisions be made about it,” he stressed.

On the presence of Iranian advisers in Iraq, Ameri said many of them have participated alongside the Iraqi forces in the fight against ISIS.

Notably, Iran and Shiite parties in Iraq have been trying to distance Iraq from the US policy and make sure it doesn’t comply with US sanctions against Iran.

In the framework of Iran’s approach toward neighboring countries to break its isolation after US sanctions, Rouhani sought to reach out to Pakistani Prime Minister to discuss joint cooperation and ease tension.

He urged Islamabad on Saturday to take “decisive” action against a militant group behind a deadly suicide attack in a border area, saying failure to act could jeopardize relations.

Iran’s state news agency IRNA said Rouhani’s remarks were made during a telephone conversation with neighboring Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan.

A suicide bomber killed 27 members of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards in mid-February in a southeastern region where security forces are facing a rise in attacks by extremists.

Jaish al Adl Group (Army of Justice), which says it seeks greater rights and better living conditions for the ethnic Baluchi minority, claimed responsibility for the attack.

“We are awaiting your decisive operations against these terrorists,” IRNA quoted Rouhani as telling Khan.

“We should not allow decades of friendship and fraternity between the two countries to be affected by the actions of small terrorist groups, the source of whose financing and arms is known to both of us,” Rouhani said.

Khan, for his part, said Pakistani forces had come close to the attackers’ hideout and there would soon be “good news” for Iran, IRNA reported.

Asharq Al-Awsat

About Track Persia

Track PersiaTrack Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.