Alwaght- On Saturday, Iran’s Andishe Sazan Nour Institute for Strategic Studies hosted a meeting in Tehran of a number of experts who discussed the “nature of the first visit to Iran of the Iraqi Prime Minister Mostafa al-Kadhimi and the agreements reached between Iran and Iraq.”
Former Iran ambassador to Iraq: “Al-Kadhimi administration seeks ties expansion with Iran.”
The first address to the meeting was made by Hassan Danaeifard, the former Iranian ambassador to Iraq. He said of massive economic and political relations between Iran and Iraq, adding that the end-user goods, not raw material, are exported to Iraq from Iran.
He also pointed to the tourism ties between the two neighbors, saying that they are very “broad” and about 70 percent, or 3 million, of the tourists entering Iran are Iraqis. The figures, of course, were published before coronavirus.
When it comes to energy exports, according to Danaeifard, Iran is a key exporter to Iraq. “There are two 25-million-cubic-meter lines delivering gas to Iraq from Iran.” Part of the gas is injected into the Iraq gas-powered power plants, he went on.
The former Iranian diplomat in Iraq also referred to the Iranian relations with all ethnic groups in Iraq. “Take the Iranian relations with the Iraqi Kurds as an example,” he said, continuing that the two states have deep cultural ties.
He at the same time pointed to the opposition to advanced Iran-Iraq ties. Danaeifard noted that both there are inside and outside Iraq opposition to the expansion of ties with Iran. “The opposition deepened especially after Iranian position in Iraq improved as Tehran assisted Baghdad in its anti-ISIS war. Pro-Western forces, Baathist Party remains, and some secular forces are against strong relations with Tehran,” he held.
Danaeifard said that all of Iraq's PMs sought stronger ties with Tehran as the Islamic Republic, a reality next to Iraq, cannot be disregarded.
He addressed al-Kadhimi’s last week's visit to Iran which he said was of political and economic significance. He referred to “considerable trade agreements” reached while al-Kadhimi was in Tehran which included reopening of border crossings.
The two countries discussed a railway linking Iran’s Shalamcheh to Iraq’s Basra. Additionally, banking cooperation was high on the negotiators’ agenda, according to Danaeifard.
A key topic was the US withdrawal from Iraq. “The Iraqi side made some promises to Iran concerning the issue and tacitly addressed the American military exit from Iraq.
Asked a question about Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) place under al-Kadhimi, Mr Danaeifard answered that the PMF is an official unit of Iraq’s armed forces. It correctly wants the US out as it blames the Americans for the emergence of terrorism in Iraq. “PMF and other units remain a promising point in Iraq’s journey to future and a people’s hope in the push for US pullout,” he added.
West Asia affairs analyst: Iran’s retaliation a legitimate right
Sayed Hadi Sayed Afqahi was another guest to the meeting. He first hailed the Iranian-Iraq trade relations which he said are aimed to reach $20 billion in few years to come.
He continued that al-Kadhmi carried messages to Tehran, some given publicity while others not. At a press conference, for example, the PM called others not to meddle in Iran-Iraq ties. The message was directed to the US and some regional states which accuse Iran of interfering in the Iraqi home affairs.
“Al-Kadhimi praised the Iranian role in the battle against ISIS terrorist organization. The PM said as a return of favor when Tehran was in economic difficulty, Baghdad stood by it,” he said.
Mr Afqahi pointed to the meeting of the Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei with al-Kadhmi. “The Leader implied to the PM that he needed to rely on people rather than on the Americans because the Americans do not care about who is the PM and even he can fall victim to the Washington policy.”
The summit of the Leader’s meeting with the PM was the assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani by the US. “The Leader asserted that Iran will give a reciprocal response to the US for the martyrdom of General Soleimani.”
“We need to know that the missile strikes on the US Ein Al-Assad military did not amount to a response to the US crime. Rather, it was a warning shot for a bigger upcoming response. A-Kadhimi said Iraq will not allow hostility against Iran from its soil. But the question is that can the Iraqi army prevent American operations?” Sayed Afqahi said, asking we need to know al-Kadhimi’s stance if Iran wants to respond to the Trump-ordered crime.
Saadullah Zaree: Iranian role in Iraq promotes Iraqi national sovereignty, independence
Mr Zaree first pointed to the Iraqi situation, adding that “despite analyses that label Iraq a failed state, we should know that Iraq is never like Egypt, Libya, Sudan or other regional countries that over the past decade underwent changes. The country is more stable than many other countries facing terrorism. Although the country was under occupation from 2003 to 2011 and large tracts of its territory was seized by ISIS, it retook them with the help of Iran and the allied forces. This status should be considered by Iranian businesspeople.”
Mr Zaree held that the message of al-Kadhmi Tehran's visit was that Tehran still backs democratically-elected cabinet. The visits made it clear that the PM is never limited in expansion of ties with Iran.
He addressed the Iraqi independence and sovereignty, saying that it is wrong that some claim that the Iraqi independence conflicts with the Axis of Resistance agenda. Iran and its allies have always proven that they cherish Iraqi independence. “We can say that Iraq owes its sovereignty to Iran and if it was not for Iran policy, perhaps to date it had an American ruler. The Iranian push for the withdrawal of uninvited US military in Iraq is part of the pro-sovereignty policy.”
Zaree also referred to the role of some Iraqi groups assisting the security in the country. “Iran believes that these groups’ role depends on Iraq conditions. In some conditions, they cannot work under the official power structure. If they do, the question is that can they help secure the country? For example, can Lebanese Hezbollah act under the military? The answer is it cannot. To act efficiently, it needs full freedom from bureaucracy. But it does not conflict with the army. Rather they secure the country together. It is the public not the administrations, which have limited terms, who decide how and when these groups should act.”
Regional affairs expert: Iran cannot tolerate the US military presence in Iraq
West Asia affairs expert Reza Mirabian was another guest of the meeting. He said Iran never foisted a government on post-Saddam Iraq and always insisted that whoever is elected by the Iraqi people will gain Tehran support. “Tehran has a bitter experience from the Iraqi instability and chaos which put pressure on Iran. Disorder and power vacuum in Iraq have consequences also on Iran.”
Mr Mirabian added that in his meeting with al-Kadhmi Ayatollah Khamenei told the PM that Tehran cannot ignore the US presence in Iraq because it carries damage both to Iran and Iraq interests. It destabilizes Iraq and hampers Iranian trade with the Iraqi side.
Asked about the cancellation of al-Kadhimi’s scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr Mirabian said that this cannot be without political messages. “We know that the Saudis did not realize their promise of aid to Iraq since Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Saudi Arabia's relations with Iraq cannot be compared to Iran-Iraq ties.”
The West Asia affairs expert pointed to the daily violations to the Iraqi sovereignty by the Americans in Bagdad and other parts of Iraq. “Iran cannot tolerate such US behavior that in addition to the damage to Iraq’s independence has consequences to Iranian interests there.”