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Experts to Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Will Not Drag Iraq in its Battle against US

Experts to Asharq Al-Awsat: Iran Will Not Drag Iraq in its Battle against US

Monday, 11 March, 2019 - 07:30
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. (Reuters)
Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani kicked off on Monday an official visit to Iraq in what Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif had described as a “historic” trip, while Iraqi President Barham Salih deemed it as “very important.”

Zarif had held talks with his Iraqi counterpart Mohammed al-Hakim in Baghdad on Sunday to prepare for Rouhani’s visit. He announced that Rouhani will hold talks with Shiite authority Ali al-Sistani, even though the top cleric has since 2015 been refusing to meet with politicians, Iraqi or otherwise. The only officials he is willing to meet are United Nations humanitarian representatives.

Meanwhile, Iraqi experts noted to Asharq Al-Awsat that Baghdad is unlikely to be dragged into Tehran’s standoff with the United States.

MP Abdullah al-Khraybit said that Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s stances reveal that he refuses to become part of any development that contradicts with Iraq’s interests.

“No harm can therefore come from Iraq signing as many agreements as possible with Iran without having to fear that it will be harmed by the sanctions imposed on Tehran,” he added.

“Abdul Mahdi is driven by politics, not emotions, knowing that Iraq needs Iran’s gas and electricity. There is no substitute for these resources in the near future,” he remarked.

“Regardless of the conflict between the US and Iran, all sides in the region must realize that Iraq is beginning to recover” and it can stand on its own two feet without having to be affiliated to any power, he stressed.

“Rouhani will therefore not be able to drag us with him” even though he will address the US sanctions during his talks with Iraqi officials, he continued.

In fact, Iraq can take advantage of the standoff to achieve its interests, remarked Khraybit.

Head of the “Political Thinking Center”, Dr. Ihsan al-Shammari said that Rouhani’s visit was a “turning point” in Iraqi-Iranian relations, noting that it was taking place amid escalating international tensions against Tehran.

“This is why Iran is throwing is weight on the Iraqi internal scene on all levels, as demonstrated in the frequent visits by its officials to the country,” he said.

“Iraq is no longer Iran’s economic window, but its political one. It has become a meeting point for several of Iran’s opponents,” he stated. “Tehran is thinking about using this window to normalize ties with the US. Baghdad may become the destination for negotiations between Washington and Tehran over the latter’s nuclear program.”

Iraqi economic expert Dr. Abdulrahman al-Shammari remarked that Baghdad was not qualified to become part of the economic war between the US and Iran because it needs Washington.

He explained that despite the active trade between Iran and Iran, these relations yield no more than $7 billion. Some $2.9 billion go in Iraq’s purchases of gas and electricity and the rest is limited to private sector trade.

The situation is completely different with the US, he noted.

Washington grants Iraq more than $2 billion in for its Defense Ministry in the form of training and equipment. Iraqi oil also makes up 16 percent of oil imported by American companies, he revealed.

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