UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) — Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday completed a three-day visit to Baghdad, during which he tried to expand ties with Iraq to reduce the negative impact of US sanctions on the Iranian economy.
This is Rouhani’s first visit to a neighboring country since his assumption of the presidency in 2013.
During the visit, the Iranian leader met with the top leadership of Iraq, and agreements on energy, transport, agriculture, industry and health were also signed. Iran has set a goal to increase trade with Iraq from $ 12 billion to $ 20 billion a year.
“Iraq is lucky to have such good neighbors as Iran and Turkey, as well as friends in the Arab world,” Rouhani said during talks with President Barham Salih. “We hope that Iraq will become a bridge between the countries of the region, and neighbors will develop on the basis of mutual respect and common interests.”
Rouhani and Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi signed an agreement to build a 77-kilometer railway from the Iranian border town of Shalamcheh to the Iraqi Basra, which will allow Iran to transport its goods not only to southern Iraq, but also to the north of the country. In the future, when a rail link appears between Iraq and Syria (which Damascus and Baghdad have already agreed upon), Iran will be able to transport its goods by rail to Latakia, the main port of Syria on the Mediterranean Sea.
The Iran-Iraq agreement on the construction of a railway branch is probably one of the most important outcomes of Rouhani’s trip to Baghdad from the point of view of Tehran’s struggle with the anti-Iranian policy of the Donald Trump administration.
The railway communication will not only provide the Iranian economy with an additional opportunity for export, but will also allow Tehran to support its allies in Lebanon and Syria, which means that it will further expand its influence in the region, which Washington and its Arab allies so actively advocate, Al-Monitor notes.
Rouhani and the Iraqi leadership also discussed the possibility of creating a joint bank that would allow the two countries to bypass US sanctions and trade without using the dollar.
An agreement was reached on mutual refusal to charge for entry visas, which will help increase the number of tourists between Iran and Iraq and stimulate the local economy. The number of Iranians traveling to Iraq has decreased since the imposition of American sanctions against Iran, mainly due to the sharp devaluation of the rial.
During the summit, the parties also discussed the demarcation of the common border, the right to ownership of border oil fields and disagreements around the Algerian agreement of 1975 on the settlement of the dispute regarding the Shatt al-Arab.
Of course, no one expects that all issues will be resolved during one summit. Some obvious solutions to the problems are not likely to be in the interests of the United States and their regional allies, and Baghdad does not want to anger Washington or its neighbors.
Abdullah Mahdi’s Iraqi policy of eliminating regional and international tensions and conflicts through moderate and balanced approaches generally continues the line of its predecessor, Haider al-Abadi.
Tehran today certainly needs Baghdad more than ever before, since the US sanctions threaten Iran’s stability not only economically, but also socially and politically. Iraq is one of the few countries that, despite the pressure of Washington, is ready to continue cooperation with Iran.
While Tehran clearly benefits from expanding ties with Iraq, it is unclear whether the Iraqi government can also benefit without harming its relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia and other Iranian opponents in the region.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for VOP from different countries around the world – edited and published by VOP staff in our newsroom.
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