Iran’s Zarif arrives in Iraq to pressure Baghdad to stay in Iran’s orbit
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is traveling to Iraq to pressure Baghdad into keeping its strategic alliance with Iran amid US-Iran tensions. In recent months, the US and Iraq have also engaged in strategic dialogue.
Iraq has been a battlefield between the US and Iran, with Iranian-backed militias which are part of Iraq’s government attacking US forces and America killing a top Iranian commander.
Zarif is in daily contact with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and his visit comes after at least two visits by Esmail Ghaani, the IRGC’s Quds Force commander.
Ghaani took over from Qasem Soleimani after the US killed him next to Baghdad International Airport in January. Iraj Masjidi, Iran’s ambassador in Baghdad, spoke over the weekend and said that Zarif’s visit is aimed at strengthening strategic relations.The Iranian Foreign Ministry on Saturday said Zarif will arrive Sunday, July 19. It is supposed to be a trip that comes just before Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi travels to Iran and to other countries, possibly Saudi Arabia. That means that Iran’s message will be to pressure Baghdad to stay close to Tehran. Iran has also signed a deal with Syria to provide air defense for the regime and is also trying to provide support for Lebanon’s economy, as both Iran and Hezbollah say that Beirut is trying to work more closely with Beijing.Zarif is also expected to meet with Kurdistan Regional Government officials, including president Nechirvan Barzani. He may also meet with the head of the Hashd al-Shaabi, a group of pro-Iranian militias, and Ammar al-Hakim. He will also express condolences for the death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi militia leader the US killed in January along with Soleimani.Iran’s Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, went to Iraq in March of this year. In March 2019, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani signed a series of important bilateral trade deals with Iraq.
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