Alwaght- New Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani arrived in Iran for a two-day visit which seems to be mainly aimed at settling security issues which in recent weeks have been the biggest problem in the two countries’ relations. IRGC attacks on separatist groups in the Iraqi Kurdistan region in recent weeks and demands by Iranian officials for Erbil and Baghdad to control activities of these groups caused security concerns to both Iraqi and Iranian officials who are seeking a solution to protect the border security.
To discuss the visit and its aims, Alwaght talked to Iranian political analyst Jaffar Ghanadbashi.
Alwaght: This is al-Sudani's third foreign trip as PM. What are the aims of the visit and what issues were discussed?
Ghanadbashi: Al-Sudani has recently taken power and it can be said that in this trip he is seeking to establish a permanent policy with Iran. The previous governments of Iraq tried to establish such stable relations but in the current situation that stability has been restored to Iraq and the parliament is fresh, the trips of the new Iraqi officials to Iran are made with the aim of establishing long-term relations. Because the two countries have common views on the situation in the region and the development of relations can lead to increased cooperation. Al-Sudani has a big responsibility in front of him because Iraq had many problems in the past year and could not formulate and implement a correct and principled foreign policy. Therefore, Sudani's coming to Iran is to formulate a long-term strategy to continue extensive cooperation. Iran has the biggest cooperation with Iraq and now this country is at the intersection of policies that exist in the region. The Americans are present in Iraq, the Arab reactionary regimes have eyes on Iraq, and Iran, which is in opposition to the Israeli regime and the United States, has a desire to further improve relations with Iraq.
The strategic plan of Baghdad and Tehran is drawn up while the two countries have a lot in common in cultural and historical fields, and the level of cooperation is very high, and now most of Iran's exports are to Iraq, and this country is of great economic and commercial importance to Iran. Al-Sudani is making this trip because of the needs that the two countries have for each other.
Alwaght: Having in mind that in recent weeks Iran launched attacks on separatist groups in Kurdistan region and also demanded assistance from the Iraqi government to contain these groups, how do you think al-Sudani can control these groups and ease Iranian concerns? Is al-Sudani and his government are interested to battle these terrorist groups in the autonomous region?
Ghanadbashi: One of the highly important responsibilities of al-Sudani is to secure the borders abused by these groups. For years, Iraq been the area of activities of ISIS terrorist organization and abuses by the Americans. Also many militias exist in the country. Iraq has long borders with Iran, and securing them through the Iraqi Border Guard is a difficult task and requires intelligence and military planning so that the Iraqi forces can fulfill their mission and the implementation of part of these plans is the job of al-Sudani government.
Realization of this mission party depends on the cooperation and agreement between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that is possible by political and strategic agreements between Baghdad and Erbil. The deployment of the Iraqi security forces to borders is not for their closure. Rather, it is for guarding them, and the past trade relations over the border will continue. It is actually a multi-aspect solution that presents ways to block abuses that work against Iran and Iraq. Also the American and Israeli abuses, characterized by smuggling arms to Iran and Iraq, should be eliminated. Al-Sudani should take initiatives to counter these groups and at the same time maintain collaboration with the Kurdistan Regional Government to save Iraq's stability.
Alwaght: It seems that al-Sudani is interested to work with Iran to counter these groups. Does his government have the power to take on these groups because we know that the US and the Israeli regime are strongly opposed to IRGC missile attacks on the terrorist groups and can put skids under his task? How can the Iraqi government remove these obstacles and can it succeed?
Ghanadbashi: Now it can be said that the current government of Iraq is more powerful than its predecessors and even the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein. But concerning its success in implementing its security programs, it should be said that this issue is tied to the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Now, Iraq is under some kind of occupation, and according to the parliament's resolution, the Americans must leave Iraq, but the United States plans to continue its occupation, and one of the major obstacles in the implementation of the government plans is the presence of American soldiers and frequent visits Washington officials make to Baghdad. Therefore, the solution of border problems of Iran and Iraq is largely dependent on the withdrawal of American forces and the elimination of Israel's activities in this country. Therefore, every step that Al-Sudani takes in the direction of confronting the movements of the enemies in the Kurdistan region and on the borders with Iran is in the direction of securing the national interests of Iraq, and these issues are not separate from each other and are in the same direction, and naturally, the plan to provide border security will also be supported by Iraqi political factions.
We can say that there would be obstructions to this aim. But now Turkey finds the Kurds a threat to its national security and has several times bombed their positions inside Iraq. Since Turkey is a NATO member, and these groups pose a threat to this country, NATO would have to rein in these groups’ movements, otherwise; the Western interests would be endangered. Therfore, al-Sudani can use the Turkish presence to counter these terrorist groups and secure the borders.
Alwaght: Given the fact that the officials in the two countries in their meetings have called on economic partnership boost, what would be your prediction of the economic cooperation of Iran and Iraq under al-Sudani?
Ghanadbashi: Any government with broader popular base and moving in the the direction of national interests would conclude that it should expand ties with Iran because Iran has shown in practice that friendship with Tehran is beneficial to the Iraqis and at the same time holds close cultural, political, and economic ties with its neighbor. At the same time, the two countries share stances on the Western colonization in the region and the Israeli regime and are more sensitive to the excesses of the region's reactionary regimes and NATO moves. These issues bring the two countries closer to each other and al-Sudani has come to power with majority vote and is seeking national interests and is not dependent on the US and the Arab countries, and these features can help him do much. Given the high-level economic cooperation between the two countries and the vast benefits the two sides make from this relationship, the Iraqi government automatically moves to cooperation with Iran.
Also, the cultural bonds can be influential in bolstering bilateral ties. The sacred places the two countries host facilitate religious visits of the citizens of the two countries and this propels tourism. Al-Sudani should take into consideration the huge capacities in this area to help boot bilateral trade ties.