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Vice president: Iran-Iraq relations play essential role in boosting regional security

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber (L) meets with Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Tehran on September 12, 2021. (Photo by Fars news agency)

Iran’s first vice president says relations between Iran and Iraq play an essential role in boosting security in the region and should be expanded at all levels.

Mohammad Mokhber made the remarks in a Sunday meeting with the visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Tehran, during which the two sides discussed matters of mutual interest and ways of expanding bilateral relations.

Referring to age-old cultural, political and economic exchanges between Iran and Iraq, Mokhber said, “Relations between the two countries play an essential role in promoting stability and security in the region and bilateral cooperation must expand at all levels.”

Kadhimi, heading a high-ranking political and economic delegation, landed in the Iranian capital on Sunday morning to meet with top Iranian officials, including President Ebrahim Raeisi.

Kadhimi’s visit to Tehran is his first since Raeisi was sworn in as Iran’s new president.

During the meeting, Iran’s first vice president also thanked the Iraqi government for hosting a conference in Baghdad to ease regional tensions and discover the potential for regional cooperation.

“Iran regards the interference of foreign countries in the region as harmful to regional states and underscores the need for endeavors to boost bilateral and multilateral cooperation,” he remarked.

Mokhber emphasized, "The presence of Americans in the region not only failed to benefit regional countries, but also caused great harm to the region’s people."

Iranian officials have repeatedly called on neighboring Iraq to expel all American forces—as the main cause of instability and terror—from their homeland by implementing a piece of legislation passed in the Arab country’s parliament demanding the same.

Calls for the expulsion of American forces have soared since the US assassination of Iran’s top anti-terror commander Qassem Soleimani and Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in early 2020.

Angered by the US targeting of top anti-terror commanders, Iraq’s resistance groups have also vowed not to lay down their arms or cease their struggle until the expulsion of all American troops from their country.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Mokhber pointed to the great capabilities of Iran’s public and private sectors, particularly in the engineering sector, and voiced the Islamic Republic’s readiness to participate in Iraq’s reconstruction process.

“Political relations between the two countries will definitely become more stable and more powerful with the expansion of economic relations,” he added.

Relations should not be affected by any factor: Iraqi PM

For his part, the Iraqi premier stressed that the Tehran-Baghdad relations should not be affected by any factor, saying that Iraq strives to fulfill all of its commitments with regard to Iran.

According to Kadhimi, Iraq opposes the inhumane sanctions against Iran and believes that the imposition of sanctions is not a viable solution to any problem.

The experience of sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s demonstrated that sanctions cause many problems for ordinary people, he said.

The Iraqi prime minister also thanked the Iranian government and people for standing by the side of Iraq in the fight against Daesh and other terrorist groups.

Kadhimi noted that Iraq has allocated a quota of 60,000 pilgrims for Iranians willing to head to the holy Iraqi city of Karbala to commemorate Arba’een, the 40th day after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the third Shia Imam.

“However, given the enthusiasm of the Iranian people to attend the Arba’een ceremony, we will increase Iranians' quota and will consider suitable facilities for them to enter” Iraq, the Iraqi prime minister said.

Kadhimi added that most American forces will exit Iraq by the end of the year.

In July, US President Joe Biden and Kadhimi declared that the US mission in Iraq will change from combat to advisory role by the end of the year.

“The delegations decided, following recent technical talks, that the security relationship will fully transition to a training, advising, assisting, and intelligence-sharing role, and that there will be no US forces with a combat role in Iraq by December 31, 2021,” Baghdad and Washington said in a joint statement on July 26.

The agreement, which has effectively given a mere new name to the US military mission in Iraq, has enraged Iraqi resistance forces, who have played a significant role in defeating the Daesh (ISIS) terrorist group in Iraq in 2017.

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