In an interview with the Associated Press on Monday, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said he does not play the role of postman between the two diametrically opposed countries with close ties to Iraq.
Al-Kadhimi who will be visiting the United States on August 20 to meet with President Donald Trump made the remark in response to an AP question on whether he was carrying any messages from Tehran following his recent visit to Iran.
“We do not play the role of postman in Iraq,” the U.S.-backed prime minister said.
Al-Kadhimi assumed office in May and made his first official visit to Tehran on July 21 where he met with the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. This was also Khamenei's first meeting with any foreign dignitary in person since the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic in Iran in February.
In the interview with AP, the Iraqi Prime Minister has stressed that Iraq "will still need cooperation and assistance at levels that today might not require direct and military support, and support on the ground" to combat terrorism.
In his visit to the Islamic Republic, Al-Kadhimi was accompanied by a large delegation consisting of the ministers of foreign affairs, oil, energy, financial affairs, planning, defense and health as well as his security adviser Qasim al-Araji.
The Iraqi Prime Minister's visit was also the first high-level since Iran's Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and top Iraqi militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were killed in a U.S. targeted attack in Baghdad on January 3 and Iran's retaliatory missile attacks on two bases in Iraqi soil that hosted U.S. troops on January 8.
In their meeting in Tehran, the Iranian Supreme Leader told Al-Kadhimi that Iran "will strike back at the United States" for Soleimani's killing.
Iraq owes $5 billion to Iran for imports including natural gas and electricity but due to U.S. sanctions cannot pay its debt to Iran through banks. The money which Iran has dire need for is currently kept in a special account in Iraq.
Al-Kadhimi's government faces many challenges including putting an end to the precarious activities of militant Shiite groups. His promise to bring arms under the authority of the state has pitted his government against militia groups supported by Iran such as the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) better known as Hashd al-Sha'abi who have continued to make threats against their political rivals and operations against the government military bases and offices.