Iran, Iraq boost ties amid regional reconciliation push

September 12, 2021 - 22:12

TEHRAN – During his visit to Tehran, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi addressed many bilateral issues and discussed ways to boost ties with Iran in an arduous effort to balance Iraq’s relations with key stakeholders in the region.

Heading a politico-economic delegation, al-Kadhimi arrived in Tehran on Sunday morning and was welcomed by the new Iranian president, Ayatollah Seyed Ebrahim Raisi. The Iraqi premier met with the Iranian president to discuss a variety of issues including visa abolition for Iranian citizens, completion of a joint railway project and increasing the level of trade between Iran and Iraq. 

During a joint press conference, the two leaders stressed the importance of deepening the Iran-Iraq relations at all levels. “The deep bonds between Tehran and Baghdad stems from the beliefs and hearts of two nations, two countries and two governments,” Ayatollah Raisi said. “Despite the wishes of the enemies, the level of relations between Iran and Iraq will develop day by day.”

Al Kadhimi is the first high-ranking foreign official to visit Iran since Ayatollah Raisi took over as Iran’s president in August. The Sunday visit was also the second visit by al-Kadhimi to Iran in a year, which, according to al-Kadhimi himself, is indicative of the importance of Iran-Iraq relations. 

The Iraqi prime minister’s visit came on the heels of a remarkable regional summit in Baghdad where many rival countries sat together in one place after having been at loggerheads for years.  Officials from Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan, and France gathered in Baghdad in late August to discuss how to improve relations. 

Many important meetings were held between foreign officials that grabbed global headlines. The Egyptian president met with the emir of Qatar and the UAE prime minister sat down and talked with the Iranian foreign minister. But there was no meeting between Iran and Saudi Arab, the two major players that al-Kadhimi seeks to break the ice between them. 

Arab media outlets reported that during his visit to Tehran, al-Kadhimi would pursue a mediation between Tehran and Riyadh among other issues. Informed sources revealed to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that Al-Kadhimi will discuss with Iranian officials four important issues during the visit, which are the Iraqi elections issue, the energy issue, and the mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as other mediation between Tehran and Washington.

Upon leaving Baghdad for Tehran, al-Kadhimi confirmed that his visit will include discussions on regional, and international issues. He said that in addition to discussing bilateral coordination with regard to positions on regional and international issues, and strengthening the region's security and stability, his visit will include discussions on issues of common interest, and the consolidation of efforts to spread sustainable development, according to a statement put out by the premier’s office. 

He also said the visit aims to strengthen bilateral relations, open up prospects for cooperation in various fields, and focus on the depth of the relationship between the two friendly countries.

In Tehran, he reiterated this message, saying that Iraq attaches special importance to the development and strengthening of relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. “We discussed a set of cases related to development of bilateral relations and we are determined to expand the level of our relations in the interests of the two nations as much as possible,” he said. 

In his public remarks in Tehran, al-Kadhimi put much emphasis on the importance of Baghdad-Tehran ties, signaling that no amount of media speculations would undermine the strong bonds between the two nations. This message came at a time when some media outlets try to portray al-Kadhimi’s efforts to balance Iraq’s foreign relations as aimed at undermining the Iranian influence in Iraq.

But al-Kadhimi was keen to appreciate Iran's support for the Iraqi government and people in the fight against terrorism.

“The Islamic Republic of Iran stood by the Iraqi people from the very beginning to fight Daesh terrorists, and the Iraqi people will always be grateful for this support,” he said, adding, “Iraq's position on the relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran is stable and the Iraqi government and people will stand by the Iranian people and government in all areas.”

The Iraqi prime minister made it clear that he understands the benefits of boosting ties with Iran. During his joint presser with Ayatollah Raisi, al-Kadhimi underlined that democratic Iraq, rising from destructions caused by former dictators, wants to have the best relations with all of its neighbors, including Iran.

The Iranian president assured the Iraqi premier that “the development of relations between the two countries can strengthen the role of Tehran and Baghdad in regional, global and international relations, and today the emphasis was on strengthening and deepening the relations between the two countries.”