Friday, 22 March, 2019

President Rouhani departs for Baghdad

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Patty Aguilar | 13 March, 2019, 16:43

The trip, described as "historic and noble" by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, will strengthen ties between the neighbouring states.

The state-run Iraqiya channel said that Rouhani arrived at Baghdad global airport and he will meet with top Iraqi officials and other political and religious leaders.

For his part, economic expert Abdul Rahman Al-Shamari said Iraq was not ready to become part of the economic war between the United States and Iran, because Baghdad is still practically in need of Washington.

Iraq is a close ally of the USA and also maintains good relations with Iran.

Iran's president is making his first official visit to Iraq this week as he faces mounting pressure from hardliners at home in the wake of the Trump administration's unravelling of the nuclear deal. "However, it's also aware that given the level of interdependencies between the two sides, Iraq is not yet ready to fully comply with the USA demands even if it decides to do so", said Hamidreza Azizi, an assistant professor of regional studies at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran.

The visit will mark the third trip to Iraq by an Iranian president since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. In 2013 the grand ayatollah refused to receive Rouhani's controversial predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

PM Imran Khan and Iranian President reiterated the importance of strengthening bilateral relations.

He said that Tehran could benefit from Baghdad to restore its relations with Washington.

'The US is despised in the region; the bombs they dropped on the people of Iraq, Syria and other countries are not forgettable and at the same time, Iran's brotherhood towards countries of the region will always be remembered, ' he said. "One can not forget the bombs that Americans dropped on Iraq, Syria and other regional countries".

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"We are very much interested to expand our ties with Iraq, particularly our transport cooperation", Rouhani said before his departure.

Prime Minister Imran khan expressed his heartfelt condolences on the recent terrorist attack in which 27 Iranian guards were killed. He is to first visit a Shiite shrine in the Iraqi capital and then meet with both Salih and Prime Minister Abdel Abdul Mehdi, as well as visit other politicians and Shiite leaders.

The Iranian president is slated to meet with Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi and a number of prominent lawmakers.

Mr Trump's decision, made after he abandoned a 2015 nuclear deal, has led to a sharp downturn in Iran's economy, pushing the value of its currency to record lows, quadrupling its annual inflation rate, and driving away foreign investors.

It has been under pressure from Washington not to get too close to the Islamic republic next door, particularly after the United States previous year withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and hit Tehran with sanctions.

"Iran is the most influential external power in Iraq", said Emma Sky, who served as political adviser to the United States military and is now at Yale University.

Iraqi President Barham Salih best portrayed Baghdad's disregard for such attempts, saying on Sunday that Iraq won't join the American push against Iran even though it knows the stance will harm Baghdad's own interests.

Washington granted a 90-day waiver for Iraq to continue paying for electricity imports from Iran, despite imposing harsh sanctions on Tehran last November.

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