Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Iraq's PM meets Iranian officials in Tehran to discuss several cooperation files

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi met with a number of Iranian senior officials to discuss enhancing bilateral relations between the two countries, including matters of energy, trade, and security.

In a speech,  Kadhimi praised Iran for support in fighting the terror group (ISIS).

 “We have fought terrorism, (ISIS) and Takfiri groups, and Iran was among the first countries that stood with us - something Iraq will never forget. Therefore, Iraq stands with Iran to pass through the economic crisis," the PM said. 

He also said that Iraq wants the stability of its neighbors, including Iran, and will not allow anyone to use Iraqi land to threaten Iran. 

Kadhimi added that Iraq-Iran relations date back hundreds of years and will be "maintained."

The prime minister was scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia on Monday prior to his visit to Tehran. However, Baghdad and Riyadh agreed to postpone the visit after the Saudi King was hospitalized due to health issues. 

Kadhimi’s visit to Tehran comes shortly after Zarif visited Baghdad on Sunday and met with several Iraqi officials, including the prime minister, President Barham Salih, foreign minister Fuad Hussein, and the speaker of parliament, as well as a number of Shiite political party leaders. 

Security issues 

High on Zarif’s agenda in Baghdad was the US assassination of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and PMF deputy Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at Baghdad airport in January, which sent US-Iran tensions skyrocketing and prompted a spate of rocket attacks on military bases in Iraq.

Units within Iraq's Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a predominantly Shiite militia network known in Arabic as Hashd al-Shaabi, that have close ties with Tehran increased their anti-US activity inside Iraq since the US assassinations of Soleimani and al-Muhandis. Iraqi bases hosting US troops have been frequently targeted by rockets since then, but the attacks have largely halted since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.  

Although the PMF has been brought under the umbrella of the official Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), and measures have been taken to fully integrate the units into Iraq’s military apparatus, the PMF continues to act independently, while some units are under the command of Tehran.

Trade and energy

Trade revenue between Iran and Iraq stood at 13 billion dollars in March 2019 which consisted mostly of Iranian goods, electricity and natural gas exported to the Iraqi markets. Iran hoped to reach 20 billion dollars in trade in the coming years but the political instability, the spread of coronavirus, and the drop in oil prices is expected to make that difficult.

Iraq has also been importing electricity and gas to power its electricity stations from neighboring Iran to make up for its shortages in power, much to the ire of Washington, which has imposed crippling economic sanctions on Tehran.

Iraq has long suffered from chronic outages and electricity shortages, in a country where summer temperatures reach 50 degrees Celsius.  A damning economic crisis and severe shortage of electricity during the hot summer months has pushed Iraqis to the streets in protest in southern Iraqi provinces in recent weeks, demanding improved services and an end to corruption. 

As many as 1200-1500 megawatts of electricity are imported from Iran on a daily basis, in addition to 38 million cubic meters of natural gas to feed several of Iraq’s power stations, according to Sayyid Hamid Hosseini, secretary general of Iran-Iraq Joint Chamber of Commerce. 

Kadhimi was scheduled to push forward on his postponed trip to Saudi Arabia a plan that aims to increase the electricity supply in Iraq and push Baghdad to be less dependent on Iran’s energy imports.  Under the deal that was signed last year with the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) but has yet to be implemented, Iraq was slated to import 500 megawatts of electricity from Sunni Arab Gulf countries on the payroll of the GCCIA before this summer.

The US is pushing Iraq to move forward with the Gulf deal, with Washington already having granted Iraq several waivers to continue imports of Iranian energy without penalty.