Iran's Rouhani arrives in Iraq on first official visit


(MENAFN - Kashmir Observer) BAGHDAD:- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has arrived in Baghdad on a trip that is aimed at solidifying strategic ties despite U.S. efforts to keep the two neighbors apart and curb Iran's influence in the region.

Heading a high-ranking politico-economic delegation, Rouhani is scheduled to pay a three-day visit to the Arab country to discuss political and economic cooperation in various fields including transit, energy, and industry with the Iraqi officials.

Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on a trip that is aimed at solidifying strategic ties despite USA efforts to keep the two neighbors apart and curb Iran's influence in the region.

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.

The unannounced visit drew fire from Iraqi officials and regional leaders, including President Rouhani, who said the secret visit - as if to a U.S. state - undermined Baghdad's sovereignty.

Iran's political, military and economic power is unmatched in Iraq, where the population is also majority Shiite.

Iran Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the visit will help improve relations between the two nations that have long had an adversarial relationship, including a war between 1980 and 1988. It is also Iran's response to President Donald Trump's snap December trip to Iraq and the American president's comments that United States forces should stay in Iraq to keep an eye on neighbouring Iran.

So far, Iraq has said it will stand by Iran.

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Sistani, who is Iranian, is opposed to the contested Shiite Muslim doctrine known as wilayat al-faqih, which is the foundation of the clerical-ruled government in Iran. But since the USA -led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which ousted Hussein, Iran has bolstered its influence much to the chagrin of the United States.

Salih and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the relations between the two countries.

It is the first official visit by Mr Rouhani since he became president in 2013.

In Iraq, leaders are struggling to balance the country's allegiances to the United States and Iran.

According to Rouhani, the necessary conditions should be formed for customs, border and quality standards for the development of economic and trade relations between the two countries.

The parlous state of Iran's economy since U.S. President Donald Trump's decision last May to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers has pushed the country's leaders to try to expand trade ties with neighbors.

Iranian exporters' concerns about trade with Iraq under a currency agreement have been addressed, the official noted, expressing hope that the process of steady trade exchange with Iraq would continue in the coming Iranian year.

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