Iraqi PM Departs Tehran, Leaving Ali Khamenei Exasperated
On July 21st, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mostafa al-Kadhimi, came to Tehran as head of a delegation which included the ministers of foreign affairs, oil, electricity, treasury, defense, health, and the national security advisor. He met with the supreme leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani, and Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri.
The Iraqi prime minister Al-Kadhemi faces a tough balancing act between Tehran and Washington and Saudi , However, Iran's side of this triangle is very week , so Iraq prefers the 2 other sides pic.twitter.com/XLX2kSj230
— hassan.mahmoudi (@hassan_mahmou1) July 22, 2020
In a joint press conference with the Iraqi PM, Rouhani said al-Kadhimi’s Iran visit was a “turning point.” “The aim of the two governments was to increase trade between the countries to $20 billion. However, “Iraq won’t allow threats to Iran from its soil. Iran and Iraq both are suffering from economic challenges and problems,” the Iraqi PM said in the same press conference.
In the meetings with the Iraqis Iranian authorities had specific demands which included the following:
- U.S. withdrawal from Iraq;
- the pursuit of justice for the death of the former commander of Revolutionary Guard (IRGC)’s Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani;
- economic collaboration.
In the end, the only concrete issue was economic collaboration. Iranian authorities are, at the moment, under unprecedented pressure both at home and abroad. It is the country’s financial troubles that are leading to its collapse. However, there is no guarantee that there will be a favorable outcome as the new Iraqi government has ties with both the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.
In previous years Iranian authorities, including Khamenei, had been issuing orders to the Iraqi government and people. For example, in 2008, Khamenei ordered Iraq’s former president, Jalal Talebani, to expel Iranian opposition Mojahedin-e Khalq (PMOI / MEK Iran) from Iraq immediately.
Khamenei has said, “We want Iraq to achieve its regional position.” This is while Iran is the first to violate Iraq’s sovereignty. Millions of Iraqis flooded the streets and brought down Adil Abdul Mahdi, al-Kadhimi’s predecessor, to end the Iranian government’s influence.’’
The Iranian government also displayed its weakness when Khamenei said, “We want Iraq to have relationships with all.”
However, al-Kadhimi did not react positively to Iran’s demands. “In Tehran,” al-Kadhimi said, “Iraq’s foreign policy is based on balance and avoiding any alignment.” The Iraqi premier said his country seeks to improve relations with Iran ‘based on non-intervention in domestic affairs of the two countries,’” the Associated Press reported on July 21.
In conclusion, al-Kadhimi’s visit to Iran showed that the Iranian government’s influence on Iraq’s political elite is slowing, with little achieved recently. Iranian Jahan-e Sanat daily on July 22 said that “Tehran’s influence in Baghdad has also diminished since [Qassem] Soleimani’s assassination and even the trips of Ali Shamkhani and [IRGC Quds Force commander Esmail] Gha’ani couldn’t return our relationship with Iraq to its previous state.
Soleimani was entering Baghdad from a visit to Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrollah in Lebanon and a visit to Syria and was going to oversee the organization of the anti-US rallies around the US Embassy compound.
Qassem Soleimani disappearing from the Iraqi scene thwarted the scheme to turn the anti-Iran tide against the US and caused immediate havoc in the Iranian regime’s total planning for Iraq.
Several analyses spell Mostafa al-Kadhimi’s intention to Washington and Riyadh as debilitation of the [Iranian] state’s interference in regional developments, particularly in Baghdad.”