Alwaght- A week after the magnificent Arbaeen ceremony that was a harbinger of historical unity and friendship of the two nations of Iran and Iraq, on Wednesday Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein in a surprise visit arrived in Tehran to discuss bilateral issues.
Before his departure to Iran, the top Iraqi diplomat had stressed that the Iraqi constitution does not allow attacks on the neighbors from the Iraqi soil, adding that Baghdad has taken necessary measures to distance the opposition communities from Iranian borders and that “we are committed to execution of the security agreements.”
It seems that after years of Baghdad procrastination, the current Iraqi administration is serious about expelling terrorist and separatist groups from the shared borders with Iran. Before Hussein’s visit, the Prime Minister of Iraq Mohammad Shia al-Sudani had said that his country is obliged to address Tehran’s security concerns regarding terrorist factions based in the autonomous Kurdistan region, adding that so far more than $2 million have been spent on security arrangements and more than 3,000 national army troops were deployed across the borders of Iran and the Kurdistan region.
It is noteworthy that Iraqi National Security Advisor Qassem al-Aaraji has recent said that “Baghdad does its best to implement the provisions of the security agreement with Iran. We emphasize on our desire to strengthen the relations between the two neighboring countries in a way that benefits the nation and the country and strengthens stability and security in the region.”
According to a security agreement inked on March 19, a 6-month deadline was set for expulsion of the separatist groups from the Iranian borders with Iraq. Iranian officials have warned repeatedly that this deadline will not extended. A high-ranking Iraqi political source said that high-level negotiations to deal with the challenge are underway and the related sides have proposed transfer of the separatist terrorists from Kurdistan region in the north of Iraq to the western province of Al Anbar. The proposal suggests construction of housing units under the security auspices of the Iraqi government like Ashraf Camp that hosted MKO terrorists for decades in Iraq.
Over the past decade, the separatist terrorist groups have posed many threats to the territorial integrity of Iran and the stability and security of the border towns in the western regions. While harming the livelihood and business of the border residents and engaging in illegal activities such as arms, drugs, and human trafficking and espionage for foreigners, they seized the last year’s riots in Iran and smuggled large number of arms and terrorists into the country to fuel the crisis by destabilizing the security in the cities and implement evil plans mainly designed by Western and Israeli intelligence agencies.
Therefore, given the Iraqi obligations to eliminate the threats posed to the Iranian borders by the separatist groups, one of the main goals of Hussein in Iran is faster implementation of the security agreements.
Iranian political analyst Jaafar Ghanadbashi talked to Alwaght about details of the visit, saying that after the magnificent Arbaeen congregation that displayed the unity of the two nations, the two sides needed to sum up what went on in the ceremony in show of all-out cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad. Shalamcheh-Basra railway that is expected to transfer passengers and pilgrims in the future is another topic of discussion between the two sides, he said.
Still, Ghanadbashi held that security agreement is the central agenda of the Iraqi FM’s visit. He added: “Iran and Iraq in recent years suffered by actions of the secessionist groups based in Kurdistan region. Because of the security problems the Americans and ISIS terrorist group created in Iraq, the previous governments in Iraq failed to address the threats of separatist groups, and this is why the north has become the safe haven of terrorists. Iraqi leaders and political groups, too, find these groups a threat to Iraq’s national security as they paved the way for attacks from neighbors on Iraqi territory which is a violation of the Iraqi territorial integrity.”
Describing the Kurdish separatist groups as the lever of the US and the Israeli regime for inflicting damage on the Iraqi and Iranian security, Ghanadbashi maintained that “in this period, it was necessary for Iran and Iraq to work together and the security agreement will root out the terrorist groups in the borders of the two countries. In addition to acting effectively economically, the Iraqi government has been successful in its security measures, and perhaps after the fall of the Baathist regime, this government is the most powerful and popular one in Iraq. It has all the necessary factors to quell the separatist groups and has popular backing. Therefore, confrontation of terrorist groups is a test for the Iraqi armed forces to show that they can take over security and stability and even protect security of the region.”
Security agreement paving the way for Iranian trade boost with Kurdistan region
Since the Kurdish terrorist groups are based in Kurdistan region, Iranian officials in recent days made visits to the autonomous region and met regional leaders. Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Mohammad Kazem Al-Sadeq on Tuesday met Kurdistan Regional Government President Nechervan Barzani. They discussed ways to bolster bilateral ties, implementing the security agreement, and Baghdad-Erbil relationship.
Highlighting the importance of relations with Iran, Barzani said that Iran is an important neighbor to the Kurdistan region.
“The region is committed to security agreement between Iran and Iraq and Iran can be sure that we will not allow its security to be threatened from inside this region,” Barzani held.
As part of his visit, Iranian ambassador also met Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Bafel Talabani in Suleimanya. In the meeting, the ambassador thanked Suleimanya for facilities it provided to the Arbaeen pilgrims and highlighted the historical Iranian relationship with the PUK.
For his part, Talabani described positive the results of his recent visit to Tehran. He also voiced his readiness for cooperation for full implementation of the security agreement. In his Tehran visit, Talabani met Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. In the meeting, Amir-Abdollahian made it clear that presence of terrorist groups in Kurdistan region and their moves against Iranian security is in conflict with Iraqi constitution and bilateral relations, adding that nobody should harm the security of Iraq’s neighbors.
Iranian officials try to assure Kurdistan region’s leaders that if the terrorist groups are expelled, by establishing stability and peace, Tehran-Erbil relations will see boost in the economic and security fields. Although Iran officially does business with the central government of Iraq, two border crossings in the Kurdistan region can effectively help trade ties prosper.
This year was the second year in Arbaeen that Iranian pilgrims crossed into Iraq through Kurdistan border crossings to move to Karbala. According to official figures published by Iran, 45,458 and 36565 pilgrims visited Iraq consecutively from Tamrchin and Bashmq border crossings, showing an increase compared to last year. These two crossings are on the border with Kurdistan and have more capacities that can play an important role in transfer of pilgrims.
Given the arrangements made by Kurdish leaders and should stability is restored to the region, next year it is expected that more pilgrims will visit Iraq for Arbaeen through the two border crossings, and this, in turn, will expand economic and security partnership between Iran and the Kurdistan region. The increase in the number of visitors and pilgrims through Kurdistan border crossings in addition to expanding tourism will help boost Erbil’s revenues.