Iraqi cleric says Baghdad can mediate between Iran, U.S.

May 20, 2019

TEHRAN – A top Iraqi Shia cleric has warned of the ramifications of the ongoing tensions between Tehran and Washington for the region, saying his country can mediate between the two countries to calm the situation.

Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of the National Wisdom Movement, made the remarks in a Sunday meeting with Joey Hood, the chargé d'affaires of the U.S. Mission in Iraq, Tasnim reported.

Describing the escalation of tensions between Tehran and Washington as “worrisome”, he said the tensions threaten the stability and security of all regional nations.    

He also welcomed U.S. calls for bilateral talks with Iran, saying these statements should be a prelude to appropriate solutions to help regional nations stay away from wars and blockades.

Pointing to Iraq’s warm ties with both Iran and the U.S., the senior cleric said Baghdad can play the role of a mediator to get the two sides’ stances closer to one another and end the current crisis.

On Saturday, Iraqi President Barham Salih said that Baghdad will stand beside the Iranian government and people in difficult times.

“We will stand beside the Iranian government and people in difficult times as the Islamic Republic of Iran stood beside the Iraqi government and people in difficult times of fighting the terrorist groups,” he said during a meeting with Iraj Masjedi, the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad.

The meeting came against the backdrop of increased tensions between Iran and the U.S., with Washington imposing the harshest ever sanctions on Iran.

The U.S. has ratcheted up pressure on Iran since last year after withdrawing from the 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Since then, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is trying to reduce Iran’s oil exports to “zero,” and has sent an aircraft carrier strike group, a bomber squad, an amphibious assault ship, and a Patriot missile battery to the Middle East to try to stack up pressure on Tehran.

Iranian officials, however, have dismissed such moves as psychological warfare, saying the country has its own ways of circumventing the American bans and selling crude oil.

MH/PA

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