Iran calls upon Pakistan to take ‘decisive’ action against militants

Leroy Wright
March 12, 2019

- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was in Baghdad Monday on his first state visit to Iraq since his election six years ago, shoring up political and trade relations as part of Tehran's growing clout in the region.

Rouhani's visit comes as Iran faces a maximalist pressure campaign from President Donald Trump after he pulled America out of Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers.

Other signatories to the deal have been trying to salvage the pact after the US exit, but USA sanctions have largely scared off European companies from doing business with Iran.

The visit underlines how much has changed since the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein invaded Iran, sparking an eight-year war that killed 1 million people.

Tehran also made political connections with Iraq's Shia leaders, who had been persecuted by Saddam's government. Iraq is a key battleground for rising tensions between Iran and the United States in the Middle East, and Rouhani's visit will emphasize economic ties to help offset USA sanctions.

"Iraq is another channel for Iran to bypass America's unjust sanctions imposed on Iran".

Rouhani called Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on the phone.

At a joint news conference, Mr Rouhani said: "We want to forge very close relations with Iraq".

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"Iran wants to build upon the opportunity of sanctions waivers, and by consolidating the existing level of economic ties with Iraq and enhancing the level of interdependency, makes it even harder for the U.S. to convince Iraq to change its course regarding the Islamic Republic", he added. "In the recent years, the people of Iran have passed a test with pride, and that is wherever the peoples of the region faced a problem and asked for the help of the Iranian nation and government, we rushed to help them". Former President Mahmood Ahmadinejad visited in 2008 and 2013. Iran has itself threatened to pull out of the agreement unless European Union powers demonstrably protect its economic benefits.

Tehran dispatched "military advisors" and equipment overnight along with the famous Revolutionary Guards elite Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani to prevent IS jihadists from approaching its western borders. Photo taken in Tehran's Azadi Square, February 11, 2015.

This handout picture released by the Iranian presidency on November 17, 2018, shows Iran's President Hassan Rouhani meeting with Iraq's President Barham Salih (L) in Tehran.

Tehran sees the US military presence at its doorstep in Iraq as a threat - one that could also undermine Iran's influence over Baghdad.

Meanwhile, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had arrived in Baghdad prior to Rouhani's arrival, to prepare the ground for his country's president, who is beginning his first official visit to Iraq on Monday.

With the visit, Iran aims to send a strong message that it retains its influence in much of the region despite U.S. sanctions.

From Baghdad's perspective, she added, "Iraq seeks to balance its relations between the United States and Iran by not angering the former or provoking the latter".

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