Iraqi Prime Minister’s Tehran Visit Facilitates War on Terror in Region and World

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ja'far Haghpanah
Assistant Professor of Regional Studies at University of Tehran, Iran

The ongoing visit to Iran by the new Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi is expected to have wide reverberations across the world. Before he left Baghdad, many news circles had assessed Abadi’s Tehran visit as very important and fateful. Of course, most trips made by various Iraqi leaders have been effective in setting the direction of the country’s internal developments and have been also influential on security arrangements in the region. However, for the following reasons, Al-Abadi’s Tehran trip can be considered as more important than previous visits:

1. The new Iraqi prime minister has chosen Tehran as the destination of his first foreign trip following the recent appointment of key ministers to the posts of interior, defense and finance ministries as a result of which his coalition cabinet is now complete. Abadi had already taken part in an international conference on the situation in Iraq, which was held in the French capital city of Paris in September. During the confab, the Iraqi prime minister, inter alia, explained his view about his country’s eastern neighbor and took a positive position on Iran's approach to Iraq. However, after completing the composition of the new Iraqi cabinet, Abadi, who is bent on consolidating the government’s control over the entire Iraq, decided to find a reliable regional ally in order to pave the way for the achievement of that goal. Iran, as the regional ally of Iraq, has been recognized by Shia, Kurdish and Sunni groups that are considered allies of Abadi’s government, as not part of the crisis in the Arab country, but part of the solution to that crisis. The trip, therefore, shows that the majority of those groups believe that Iran can play the role of a reliable regional ally for their country. In the meantime, the trip is meant to send an indirect message to other neighboring states of Iraq by telling them that Baghdad is against their interventionist approach to Iraq’s internal affairs as well as their support for terrorist operations that are being carried out in Iraq by Baathist and Takfiri groups. A similar position had been already taken by Masoud Barzani, the president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, during a visit by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif to Erbil. Barzani’s position, which was reiterated in his message to the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, went beyond the concerns of Iraqi Arabs alone.

The fact that Sunni ministers of Abadi’s cabinet have accompanied him in his trip to Tehran is a telltale sign that Iran has strong links with various layers of the Iraqi society, especially those that are playing a significant role in Haider Al-Abadi’s government. Iran's approach to differentiating between a minority of Baathist and Takfiri extremist elements and the majority of Iraq’s Sunni population, as well as Tehran’s efforts to boost interaction among religious groups in Iraq have been major steps taken by the Islamic Republic to cement friendly ties between Tehran and Baghdad. This issue will be naturally discussed during the two sides’ negotiations in Tehran.

2. It is no secret that a major item on Abadi’s Tehran trip agenda is discussing measures that would bolster security in the region and provide grounds for the fight against terrorism. The two sides are also supposed to discuss Iran's role in these developments. Apart from motivations and concerns that arise from Iran's identity and geopolitical position, Tehran enjoys enormous capacity to rein in such asymmetrical threats and has also a considerable track record in cooperation with various political groups and tribes in Iraq. Of course, Iran's participation in these arrangements seems to have become somehow complicated. On the one hand, Baghdad has decided to make use of bigger capacities in the form of an international coalition in its fight against the ISIS terrorist group. On the other hand, Iran is considered one of the most important players that is opposed to extremism in the region, but due to opposition of some regional rivals has not been able to be part of the aforesaid coalition. Various Iraqi officials at different levels have already put emphasis on the need to attract Iran's cooperation in the fight against terrorism. Being aware of the realities on the ground, they were more informed than other governments of the fact that due to its huge capacities, Iran would be able to greatly boost the effectiveness of anti-terrorism coalition. Therefore, they have been always bent on making the most of Iran's capacities. As a result, the current trip by Abadi can not only provide good grounds for synergy among various efforts that are made to repel this common terrorist threat, which is equally posed to the entire region as well as Europe and the United States, but can also draw international attention to Iran's approach to fighting terrorism.

3. A glance at the map of the regional bases of ISIS would reveal that this terrorist group is aware of the general disgruntlement of people in the western provinces of Iraq and the eastern provinces of Syria with the existing situation. However, the factor that can further boost the power of such groups is their opportunism and their use of identity rifts in the region. On the other hand, governments in such countries as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are aware of the negative consequences of further empowerment of such political currents, and have basic conflicts with these currents in certain cases. However, despite these facts, they have taken the high risk of getting involved in the dangerous game of becoming an ally to this adventurous, unpredictable and extremely violent group. Under these circumstances, a coalition between Tehran and Baghdad can be considered a very effective practical step in the face of regional support for extremism.

On the whole, it seems that both sides (Tehran and Baghdad) have decided on the basis of new realities in the region to delineate a clear future outlook for bilateral cooperation. It would naturally follow that in view of the current circumstances in Iraq, security issues will be a priority for both countries. Success in this area and Iran's support for further strengthening of a broad-based government in Iraq at a time that other neighbors of Baghdad have been taking hostile approaches toward the new Iraqi government, will be marked as a turning point in bilateral relations between the two countries.  The people of Iraq, including lay people and elites from all ethnic and religious backgrounds, such as Kurds, Shias and Sunnis will certainly never forget such an auspicious development.

Key Words: Iraqi Prime Minister, Iran, War on Terror, Haider Al-Abadi, Shia, Kurdish and Sunni Groups, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Masoud Barzani, Baathist and Takfiri Extremists, Anti-Terrorism Coalition, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Haghpanah

Source: Iran Newspaper
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

More By Ja'far Haghpanah:

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*ISIS Crisis and Future Scenarios for Iraq:

*Afghan Presidential Election and Possible Impact on Tehran-Kabul Ties:

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