Rouhani’s trip to Iraq garners international media attention

March 11, 2019

President Hassan Rouhani’s 3-day trip to Iraq, which began on Monday, has drawn international media attention, with many outlets describing it an act of defiance of U.S. sanctions.

According to Reuters, Rouhani’s visit signaled to Washington and its Persian Gulf Arab allies that, in the face of U.S. sanctions reimposed after the U.S. pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran still plays a dominant role in the region.

It further said the trip is meant expand trade ties to help offset renewed U.S. sanctions.

“Iraq is another channel for Iran to bypass America’s unjust sanctions imposed on Iran. This trip will provide opportunities for Iran’s economy,” a senior Iranian official, who is accompanying Rouhani, told Reuters.

Al Jazeera reported that the visit is a strong message to the U.S. and its regional allies that Iran still enjoys support in Iraq, a key arena for rising tension between Washington and Tehran.

“Iran is a small body with a big brain, and the United States is a big body with a small brain,” The New York Times quotes former Iraqi Parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani as saying.During the three-day visit, a series of agreements will be signed in fields such as energy, transport, agriculture, industry and health.

Following the defeat of ISIL (Daesh) in Iraq, Iran is trying to position itself to gain a prime role in rebuilding the war-ravaged country, France 24 reported.

The New York Times pointed to Iraq’s internal affairs, saying the trip comes while Iran was the real winner of last year’s parliamentary elections in Iraq.

“Iran is a small body with a big brain, and the United States is a big body with a small brain,” The Times quoted Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni Muslim who was a former speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, as saying.

According to the Times of Israel, Iran sees Iraq as a possible route to bypass U.S. sanctions.

“Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion. Tehran hopes to increase the roughly $13 billion volume in trade between the two neighboring countries to $20 billion. Also, some 5 million religious tourists bring in nearly $5 billion a year as Iraqis and Iranians visit Shiite holy sites in the two countries,” it added.

MH/PA

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