Brothers in arms

February 1, 2021 - 21:34

TEHRAN – In the latest sign of support for the Iraqi people and government, a top advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution of Iran met with the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert to discuss the latest developments in Iraq.

The advisor, Ali Akbar Velayati, told the UN official that Iran is ready to provide any kind of assistance to Iraq to help it cope with the challenges ahead.

The Sunday meeting comes against a backdrop of renewed efforts by the Iraqi government to hold a general election in October. The election was initially scheduled for June 6 but the government of Mustafa al-Kadhimi voted to postpone the election from June to October 10, a move that aimed to give the government more time to make preparations for a free and fair election.

Ever since he took office in May last year, Prime Minister al-Kadhimi has vowed to hold an early election in a bid to calm protestors who forced his predecessor to resign. But Iraq is yet to implement the legal and logistical measures needed to hold free and fair elections. This has prompted the country’s Independent High Election Commission (IHEC) to suggest delaying the election.

With the election delayed until October, Iraq and the UN special envoy try to secure support from various countries and international institutions to help the al-Kadhimi government hold the election smoothly. To this end, Iraq asked the United Nations Security Council to oversee the country’s election.

“The Foreign Ministry sent a letter to the UNSC requesting international observation of the elections and is in the process of writing a second letter on the same subject,” Iraq's Foreign Ministry said, according to a statement from the Iraqi Foreign Ministry.

The letter was sent after press reports warned of voter fraud and foreign interference, which Iran and Iraq both oppose.

During his meeting with Hennis-Plasschaert, Velayati underlined the need to prevent foreign interference in Iraq’s internal affairs, saying that “the great people and government of Iraq has a direct role in determining their destiny because the people of this country have a deep and profound culture.”

Hennis-Plasschaert has said that Iraq has requested “the mildest form of international presence” in Iraq during the election. Speaking at a press conference held by IHEC three days before her visit to Iran, the special representative said the international community has been providing Iraq with technical assistance only. “It must be clear at all times that Iraqi elections are Iraqi-owned and Iraqi-led,” she said, noting, “There is no such thing as the international community taking over.”

She listed the three options that can be envisaged to protect the integrity of electoral processes: supervision, monitoring and observation. In its request to the Security Council, Iraq refers to the observation option, according to a statement issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI).

“Observation is the mildest form of international presence in Iraq to see what is happening on election day. This is exactly what the Iraqi government asked the Security Council.”

In an attempt to ensure Iran's support for elections in Iraq, Hennis-Plasschaert traveled to Tehran shortly after her visit to the IHEC.

Iran attaches high importance to the incoming Iraqi election, with Velayati describing the election as being very determining for Iraq.

“This election will be very determining for Iraq and the Iraqi people and government will have a very bright future,” the veteran politician said while underlining that Iran stands beside the people and government of Iraq just as it did in the past.

And this stands in stark contrast to what some parties in the region say about the possible effect of the October election on the Iraq-Iran ties. These parties use everything in their power to undermine the brotherly ties between Tehran and Baghdad, which are deeply rooted in history. Iran and Iraq have much more things in common than any other two countries in the region. They share long borders, common religion, and people-to-people connections.

Velayati underscored these ties during his meeting with the UN special envoy, noting that Iran’s “relations with Iraq are very massive, deep and brotherly.”

Relations between Iran and Iraq were further strengthened when the two found themselves in the fight against a common enemy: the Daesh terrorist group. Iran was the first country to help Iraq in 2014 when Daesh occupied large swathes of the Iraqi territories and began its march toward the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

Iraqi politicians across the political spectrum have appreciated Iran’s role in the fight against Daesh. Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has praised Iran for opening its arms depots to the Iraqis during the war against Daesh, which had occupied large territories of Iraq when al-Maliki was ruling the country.

“Daesh has come [to Iraq] because they [Americans] stopped all types of military support to Iraq and undercut the foundation of the Iraqi army,” the former prime minister said. “Washington told the Iraqi delegation as long as al-Maliki is in power, they will not give weapons to Baghdad to fight Daesh. This is all while Iran and Russia have opened their arms depots to Baghdad in support of the Iraqi army and the Popular Mobilization Forces.”

Velayati pointed to the fight against terrorism in Iraq, saying that Iran had played a very important role in the fight against Daesh.

According to the advisor, the top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in an American drone strike earlier last year, and his comrade Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization (PMF), were martyred in the cause of the fight against Daesh.

These strong relations will only be boosted in the future, Velayati remarked. “Undoubtedly, Iraq’s election will be good. The people of Iraq can overcome problems using their valuable capacities and the role of the religious authority [of Najaf]. We are very optimistic about the future of Iraq and Iran-Iraq relations will be expanded even more than before,” he noted.


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