TEHRAN –Iraqi President Barham Salih began visiting Iran on Saturday where he promised to improve relations less than two weeks…
Iraqi President Barham Salih began visiting Iran on Saturday where he promised to improve relations less than two weeks after the US restored oil punishment that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear agreement.
Iran, which has had a large Influence over Iraq since the 2003 American invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, hopes to keep exports to its neighbor despite the renewed sanctions. Iraq is Iran’s second largest market after China and buys everything from food and machinery to electricity and natural gas.
At a joint briefing after the meeting, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that they discussed increased trade in electricity and oil products and the establishment of free-trade zones along the border. He said they also discussed joint oil projects and improved transport links between the two countries.
Trade between the two countries amounted to approximately $ 7 billion by 201
7 and they have promised to increase it to $ 8.5 billion this year. Rouhani said it could eventually reach $ 20 billion a year.
Salih also promised to improve the ties and proposed the creation of a “new regional system” including Iraq and Iran, one based on “political integrity, national interests and cooperation between nations and governments.” He did not work out.
Later on, Salih met Iran’s highest leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, calling for unity among the two countries, saying that the Iraqis would resist foreign intervention.
“Some governments in the region and beyond the region have strong opposition to Islam, Shiite and Sunni, and disturb Iraq’s internal affairs,” Khamenei said. “The rude and clear enemy must be strongly opposed.” He did not name a country.
President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the 2015 nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers in May. The UN supervisor says that Iran is still following the agreement, where it agreed to limit its enrichment of uranium instead of repealing international sanctions.
Since then, Trump announced what he billed as the “toughest” sanctions against Iran, and the country has seen its oil production peak and its currency loses more than half of its value. The measures came into force on November 5, when the US resumed oil and bank sanctions.
The United States, which provided important military support to Iraq in the battle against the Islamic state, has granted Iraq a 45 outstanding exceptions to continue to purchase gas and electricity from Iran.
Salih said that Iraq would not be “a field of struggle between conflicting demands and wills”.