US worried as Iran, Iraq forge close security ties
Iraq, fresh from liberating Mosul in its most serious blow to Takfiri terrorists, is reaching out to Iran which, according to most senior Iraqi officials, prevented Baghdad from falling to Daesh.
Iraqi Defense Minister Erfan al-Hiyali was in Tehran on Sunday, signing an agreement to step up military cooperation and the fight against “terrorism and extremism”.
Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Jaberi Ansari was in Baghdad where Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, a Sunni Muslim, stressed the need for the two neighbors to continue their cooperation in fighting terrorism.
Iran provided Iraq with a steady contribution of military advisers who were key to pushing back Daesh terrorists. Iran’s charismatic military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani famously rushed to Iraq’s help when Daesh was closing in on Baghdad in July 2014.
That was when the Takfiri militants had captured Iraq’s second city of Mosul and swept across northern and central Iraq in the summer of 2014 in a blitz that placed nearly a third of Iraq under Daesh’s control.
The lightning attacks saw some of the worst atrocities in the region’s memory, including the massacre of Sinjar and summary executions of at least 1,566 Iraqi Air Force cadets at Camp Speicher in Tikrit.
Some unusual events also came to pass, including a cakewalk march of Daesh armored vehicles in a single column into Ramadi where only one airstrike by the US and its allies could have taken them out.
The United States, however, started its airstrikes in Iraq when the Takfiris evidently could not gain more ground and were rather being driven back, thanks to Iranian arms and weapons shipped to the Arab country.
When Iraq started to retake Mosul, US and other Western media initially described the attempt as an impossible mission but later tried to portray America in the lead as advances began to fall in the Iraqi army’s way.
Earlier this month, the spokesman for Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters Karim al-Nouri said the US had no role in Iraq’s recapture of Mosul despite Western reports characterizing American troops as leading the operation.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Ja’afari told Jaberi Ansari in Baghdad that “if it were not for Iran, Iraq would have been lost,” the Akhbar al-Araq newspaper reported.
Ties between the neighbors have improved since Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003, years after they fought the 1980-88 bloody war.
On Sunday, Reuters news agency said the military cooperation agreement signed between Iran and Iraq was set to raise concerns in Washington.
Iran’s Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told Hiyali in Tehran that the Islamic Republic was determined to stand by Iraq in its reconstruction, “just as we stood by the Iraqi people and government in fighting terrorism.”
“We believe that all Iraqi ethnic groups should be present at the political and governmental scene and not allow enemies to intervene in determining their fate,” the Iranian speaker said.
Larijani said Iraq should not rest on laurels of its victory, citing a series of threats which were targeting the country’s integrity.
“Certain countries are after internal divisions and are raising the issue of Iraq’s breakdown; they are certainly not your friends,” he told Hiyali, referring to a referendum plan for the Iraqi Kurdistan’s secession.
“With the achievement of this victory in Mosul, you will not find complete peace and there are concerns that Israel is constantly looking for new scenarios,” Larijani said.
Moreover, “terrorist forces are constantly looking for ways to (expand their) influence, which is why it is very important to boost security and intelligence and we will continue to support you as a neighboring country and friend,” he added.
Hiyali said, “The Iraqi people and government will definitely never forget the support of those who did not leave them alone in this war, just as they will not forget those who sent Daesh to Iraq.”
The Iraqi minister further thanked Iran for “its brotherly and cordial cooperation,” calling for the two countries to reinforce their relations, the IRNA news agency reported.