- Iran-Iraq trade relations, including the increase in trade volume from $10 billion to $17 billion, were to be discussed during the visit.
- Kazemi's visits to Riyadh and Tehran raised the possibility that Iraq had decided to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
- The Iraqi Prime Minister's remarks and the policies of his government have caused dissatisfaction among pro-Iranian forces in Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kazemi began his first foreign trip in Iran on Tuesday, Iranian state media reported. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani officially welcomed the Iraqi Prime Minister at a ceremony held at the Tehran Summit Hall. The two will discuss trade and other matters.
According to Iranian state media, after a private conversation between Rouhani and Kazemi, joint talks between high-level delegations of the two countries will be held in the presence of Ishaq Jahangiri, the first vice president of Iran.
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, the speaker of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, are also scheduled to meet with Kazemi. The state-run IRNA news agency reported that Iran-Iraq trade relations, including the increase in trade volume from $10 billion to $17 billion, were to be discussed during the visit.
Welcoming Kazemi’s visit to Tehran, the Iranian media wrote that the meeting would contain different messages in terms of content and the impact it could have on the future of relations between the two countries.
The Iraqi prime minister was scheduled to travel to Tehran after meeting with Saudi leaders, but the trip was postponed due to the illness of King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and the visit was postponed until after King Salman was released from the hospital.
Kazemi’s visits to Riyadh and Tehran raised the possibility that Iraq had decided to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It was even said that the Iraqi Prime Minister was carrying a message from Iran to Saudi officials.
This issue was assessed by some possible observers, although not officially confirmed by the officials of the two countries. The Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, had also left for Baghdad the day before Kazemi’s visit to Riyadh.
Hassan Hashemian, a Middle East expert, told reporters about the possibility of Iraq mediating between Saudi Arabia and Iran. “There are no such signs,” he said. The expert believes that resolving the differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia is beyond Iraq’s capabilities.
“Kazemi pursues his policy based on the national interests of Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, the United States, and Iran must respect the national interests of Iraq,” Hashemian added. “Saudi Arabia and the United States have no problem with this Iraqi policy, but Iran has made it a condition for Iraq to withdraw American troops from Iraq.”
Pro-Iranian Groups Dissatisfied with Kazemi
The Iraqi Prime Minister has announced that he has launched a large-scale campaign to fight corruption on the country’s border with Iran. Kazemi had said on July 11 that this was a fight against violators who would cause millions of dollars in damage to Iraq by failing to pay customs duties and taxes on goods imported from Iran.
Referring to the Mendeleev border crossing with Iran, the Iraqi prime minister said that Iraq’s borders had become a “hotbed of corrupt people.” The Mendeli border crossing opened in 2014, and is largely controlled by intelligence forces and members of the Popular Mobilization Forces, which is backed by Iranian-backed Shiite militias.
The Iraqi Prime Minister’s remarks and the policies of his government have caused dissatisfaction among pro-Iranian forces in Iraq, and observers have seen Kazemi’s visit to Tehran as a means of satisfying these groups.
Hashemian also explained that according to Kazemi’s policy in Iraq, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs is obliged to act in the national interest of Iraq, and the establishment of relations with Iran or Saudi Arabia or the United States is defined in this context.
“The regime under Mr. Khamenei stipulates for Mr. Kazemi that Iraq must withdraw American troops from its territory. This is not acceptable at all, because Mr. Kazemi will travel to Washington later this month, and Mr. Trump will welcome him to the White House, and the United States will continue to hold high-level strategic talks.”