Iran slams US and Israel in high-level meetings with Iraq

Iraq wants to reduce tensions between US and Iran-backed militias even as video shows IRGC Quds Force commander Ghaani in Iraq.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as they wear protective masks, in Tehran, Iran, July 21, 2020. (photo credit: IRAQI PRIME MINISTER MEDIA OFFICE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani welcomes Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi as they wear protective masks, in Tehran, Iran, July 21, 2020.
Iran is pushing Iraq to eject US troops, but is wary of carrying out attacks that could cause casualties to US personnel stationed in its western neighbor.
On Saturday, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with senior Iranian officials during a trip to Iran in what were among the first major face-to-face meetings in a while due to the Covid crisis. They come amid increasing rumors of Iran’s role in Iraq, and warnings by the US against continued attacks on its embassy in Baghdad.
There have been dozens of rocket and explosive attacks targeting the US in Iraq, as well as the UK and convoys that supply the US. Video posted by Iranian websites showed that Quds Force commander Ismael Ghaani was in Iraq recently. This is a message to Washington.  
The Iran-Iraq discussions this weekend began with a meeting between Hussein and Iran’s Speaker of the Consultative Assembly, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf (Ghalibaf). Qalibaf and Hussein are both Kurdish, and Hussein is not known for anti-US sentiments, but as Iraq’s foreign minister he was in Iran to hear out the Iranians on the latest issues.
“We believe that Iraq currently has a positive role in the region,” the Iranian said.
He then claimed the US backed ISIS and spreads instability in the region and Iraq.
"Some countries in the region, under pressure from the United States, normalized relations with the Zionist regime. Undoubtedly, the Islamic world should not be silent on this issue, and it is necessary because the issue of Palestine is the first priority of the Islamic Ummah,” Qalibaf said.
He then emphasized that Iran has always supported Iraq as an Islamic country. Hussein stressed the need to further strengthen bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries and called the dredging of the Arvand River and the railway connection between Iran and Iraq among the most important issues on the agenda of the two countries.
IRANIAN PRESIDENT Hassan Rouhani also met with the Iraqi foreign minister. He talked about the “unity of Shi’ites” in Iraq and Iran and also mentioned relations with Kurds in Iraq.
"We are with the government and people of Iraq to help the unity and cohesion of Iraq," Rouhani said. "We have always made our views clear and unequivocal in our political positions. We know the stability of the region. [We are] emphasizing that trying to get the United States out of the region is not our job: it's the duty of any country where Americans are present.  
"Iran claimed it was against interfering in the internal affairs of Iraq and the relations between Iraqi groups," he added.
In fact, Tehran has been backing Kataib Hezbollah and other militias in Iraq. It has also fired rockets at Kurdish dissident groups and put pressure on the northern Kurdish region of Iraq.
"We have always believed that Iraqi groups have good relations for the preservation and development of their country,” Rouhani said at the meeting.
Hussein said that with the emphasis of the Iraqi prime minister, a specialized committee had been appointed to conduct negotiations and prepare the ground for the implementation of agreements between the two countries. The members of this committee will travel to Iran in the coming weeks.
Tehran needs Baghdad as an ally and trade partner. It uses Iraq as a dumping ground for its products and has sponged up Iraqi assets and infrastructure. Iraq has become more dependent on Iran, which wants this as a way to undermine America's role in there.
Iran has funded and armed militias in Iraq. Many Iraqis have protested against Iran over the last year. After dozens of attacks on US forces and Washington handing over more bases to Iraqis, Iran feels it might finally be able to eject the US from Iraq. This would be a win for Iran. However Tehran must tread carefully because the US has shown that it will carry out airstrikes if American soldiers or personnel are harmed.
The US also killed Iranian IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani in January and Iran fired missiles at Al-Asad base in Iraq. Rumors indicate Soleimani’s replacement Ismael Ghaani may again be visiting Iraq.