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Iran and Iraq: Tehran invasions joint military exercises

ran wants to hold joint military exercises with Iraq, an Iranian news website reported on Monday, potentially increasing the alliance and link between Baghdad and Tehran.

 

It comes as an Iranian diplomat visited Mosul and also after a commander of Iran’s air defense indicated Tehran could work with Baghdad on its air defense requirements. Joint military exercises would be a major step in the alliance between Iraq and Iran. 

ISNA reported on Monday that Iran’s land forces commander of Koumars Heydari suggested joint exercises in a meeting with Iraqi deputy commander of the army Major General Tariq Abbas Ibrahim.

 

Iran wants to hold joint military exercises with Iraq, an Iranian news website reported on Monday, potentially increasing the alliance and link between Baghdad and Tehran.

 

It comes as an Iranian diplomat visited Mosul and also after a commander of Iran’s air defense indicated Tehran could work with Baghdad on its air defense requirements. Joint military exercises would be a major step in the alliance between Iraq and Iran. 

ISNA reported on Monday that Iran’s land forces commander of Koumars Heydari suggested joint exercises in a meeting with Iraqi deputy commander of the army Major General Tariq Abbas Ibrahim.

Iran and Iraq were once enemies when Saddam Hussein’s regime was in charge, but after the US-led invasion in 2003 the countries have grown closer because of the rise of Shi’ite political parties and allies of Tehran who see Iran as a natural ally for Iraq. Iraq’s second largest party, the Fatah Alliance is run by Hadi al-Amiri, the head of Badr Organization, who once served alongside the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the 1980s.

However, Iraq has also said it does not want to be in the middle of the current Iran-US tensions. When US President Donald Trump indicated that US forces might use Iraq to “watch” Iran, this angered Baghdad. New electricity agreements were signed between Iraq and Iran in February, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a strategic trip to Iraq in March in which he signed 22 agreements to boost ties. Rail ties would be constructed, oil infrastructure connected and Iran and Iraq would be more closely integrated, the agreements said.

Now Iran appears to be taking things to the next level. An Iranian diplomat visited Mosul this week, according to photos posted online. Morteza Ebadi, the Iranian consul-general in Erbil, has sought to increase ties with northern Iraq. Rudaw reported in May that he said economic trade between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iran could increase to $5 billion this year, from $4 billion previously. Mosul, which is one of Iraq’s largest cities, is in Nineveh province next to the KRG.
 
At the same time a commander of Iranian air defense indicated that the two countries could cooperate. This comes in the wake of Iran shooting down a US drone and a rocket attack near US forces in Mosul on June 18. Iran suggested the cooperation according to ISNA when a delegation from Iran visited an Iraqi base. Alireza Sabahifar, an Iranian officer in charge of air defense, met with the Iraqi deputy commander of the army Tariq Abbas Ibrahim on Sunday. He suggested that Iran and Iraq “consolidate Islamic power in the region,” ISNA reported. Then Iran said it was ready to create an expert committee to look at joint air defense.

In subsequent meetings, according to ISNA’s report the Iranians and Iraqis arranged for joint drills. “The ground forces are at the highest level of combat readiness and are ready to transfer experiences in the field to the Iraqi army,” Heydari said.

 

He discussed the unbreakable spiritual connection of the countries. Most of the discussion appeared to center around shared religious devotion, as opposed to tactics, strategy and divisions.

 

Iraq thanked Iran for its support during the war against ISIS and indicated that assistance might be welcomed in the fields of battlefield medical knowledge and also snipers. It was unclear why Iraq, which has been fighting ISIS for years, needs this from Iran’s regular army which has not been engaging in operations recently.

However the real issue is closer work of the two militaries. The men discussed the need for Iran and Iraq to be closely connected in “political, defense, economic, and cultural fields. Inshallah, these new ties and ideas will happen,” Heydari said. They also discussed cooperation in training, artillery and airborne assault. The meeting was reported in Fars News and other agencies in Iran.

The meeting comes as Iraq is at a crossroads after the war on ISIS. The US and the coalition against ISIS is still providing training to Iraq, but there has been controversy about continued US presence. The recent rocket attacks in Mosul, near Balad air base, Camp Taji, near the US embassy in Baghdad and near oil facilities in Basra, point to tensions rising. In addition, the subject of Iraq and Iran working together on air defense would likely be a major hurdle for US policy makers and continued involvement in Iraq.

The US wants to continue supporting the Iraqi army and special forces but the US has labelled several major Shi’ite paramilitary groups terrorist organizations even as those groups are officially part of the Iraqi security forces, and the US views Iran’s IRGC as a terrorist group, which would make it difficult if Iran was carrying out joint drills with Iraq if the IRGC had any role. Currently the meetings appear to be between Iran’s conventional army or Artesh, and their Iraqi counterparts.

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