Tag Archives: zarif

Breaking: Zarif’s visit to Baghdad won’t address Iraqi gov’t power “Dynamic”

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Zarif’s first visit to Baghdad since assassination of General Qassem Soleimani aims to mend strained relations.


Iran’s foreign minister arrived in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday to discuss several issues related to political, commercial and security matters, in an attempt to patch up relations with the government.

Ties between Baghdad and Tehran have been strained since the United States assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleimani – the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – and deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January.

Speaking at a joint news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein, Mohammad Javad Zarif stressed his country’s belief on “maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq” and that a “stable and powerful” Iraq was in the interest of both countries.

“That is why we look forward to continued constructive bilateral negotiations. The stability, security and peace in Iraq is the stability of the entire region,” he said.

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John Bolton on Iran, North Korea and ‘accountability’ for US wars
For his part, Fuad Hussein said his country looked forward to continuing its “balanced relations” with all the countries in the region “based on first our national interest, then on mutual interest with our neighbours without any interfering in our domestic affairs”.

Iraqi security analyst Ahmad al-Abyad told Media (known to Noble Reporters Media), that Zarif’s visit, which comes a day before Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi travels to Saudi Arabia, is no coincidence.

“Zarif’s visit carried two messages,” he said. “One is a cushioned warning to al-Kadhimi not to go forward with attempts to shore up economic links with the Gulf states, and the other is a message of mediation to its regional rival Saudi Arabia.”

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Another Baghdad-based security analyst, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera one of the main topics of discussion will be about the al-Munthiriya border crossing with Iran, which has long been used as a smuggling route to Lebanon and Syria in terms of weaponry and fighters.

“The PMF used to be in control of the border, but after a no-fly zone was imposed it has gotten harder to smuggle weapons across,” the analyst said, adding the crossing is now under Iraq’s security forces and Counter Terrorism Service (CTS).

The other topic of interest will be about preparations for the religious pilgrimage season known as the Arbaeen, which takes places in the Iraqi holy city of Karbala in two months’ time following the end of the 40-day mourning period for Ashoura.

Yet regarding efforts to curb the PMF’s influence on the political and security front, the analyst said Zarif was not the right person to act as a buffer between the umbrella group and Iraq’s government.

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“The PMF file is in the hands of the Revolutionary Guards, not Iran’s foreign office,” he said.

Sarmad al-Bayati, an Iraqi political analyst, said Zarif’s visit will focus more on bilateral relations between the two countries.

“The Iranian foreign minister did not come to Baghdad to discuss the PMF,” he said. “It is more likely that he will talk about the killing of Soleimani and al-Muhandis instead.”

PMF’s sphere of influence
Prime Minister al-Kadhimi has been a strong advocate of Iraq’s sovereignty, and has upset armed groups within Iraq that are affiliated to Iran, such as Kataib Hezbollah. At the end of last June, al-Khadimi ordered a raid on Kataib Hezbollah’s offices in Baghdad, which led to the arrest of 14 fighters.

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Kataib Hezbollah in turn and other armed groups within the PMF have accused al-Kadhimi of assisting the US in its assassination of Soleimani and al-Muhandis, which has created a rift within the prime minister’s government.

The PMF, which is made up of dozens of mostly Shia militias that are dominated by powerful factions who take their orders from Iran, enjoys political influence as it dominates dozens of seats in parliament through the Fatah Alliance and State of Law coalitions.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (L) meets with his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Baghdad [Murtadha al-Sudani/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Incorporated within the Iraqi government in 2016 following the defeat of the armed group ISIL (ISIS), the sphere of influence of the PMF has only continued to grow.

Critics point out the PMF, backed by Iran, has expanded its authority on the political, economic and security front. In 2019, it received $2.16bn from the defence budget, yet it is independent from any control or oversight by the Iraqi defence ministry.

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“Security-wise it controls the liberated areas that were previously under ISIS, which includes many border areas and land ports,” al-Abyad told Al Jazeera.

“Its control has spread inside and outside the cities and has its own security and intelligence services. It has become a force that exceeds the ability of the government, and it runs parallel to the Revolutionary Guards project in Iran.”

The Baghdad-based anonymous security expert said the PMF and its proxy armed groups also “wield influence on the streets of Baghdad”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif makes a speech at a news conference in Baghdad [Murtadha al-Sudani/Anadolu via Getty Images]

“Whoever stands against them – politically, legally, ideologically – find themselves killed, imprisoned, or persecuted,” he said. “My good friend and colleague Hisham al-Hashemi was neither the first nor the last to be killed.”

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Al-Hashemi, a well-known and top security analyst, was shot dead by unknown gunmen outside his home in the capital earlier this month.

Following the government raid on Kataib Hezbollah’s offices last month, al-Hashemi provided his social media followers with insights over allegations the group was behind rocket attacks on US and other diplomatic interests in Iraq.

The group quickly issued a statement on its Telegram channel denying responsibility for his killing.

“Activists and members of rights groups fear for their lives because they do not trust nor can count on the Iraqi government to hold accountable the armed groups behind targeted killings,” the security expert said.


#Newsworthy…

Iran’s Zarif on his first visit to Iraq after Soleimani’s death

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Ties between the neighbours have been turbulent since the US assassinated the Iranian commander in Iraqi in January.


Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is visiting Iraq, for the first time since the killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps commander Qassem Soleimani in January.

Zarif and his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein stressed the necessity for a stable Iraq for the “good of the region” as the two top diplomats discussed their ties and regional developments in Baghdad on Sunday.

Zarif is also expected to meet Iraq’s president, the speaker of parliament and the prime minister during the visit as regional security, bilateral relations and business investments feature on the agenda.

Zarif’s visit to Iraq comes amid tensions between the United States and Iran, which escalated following Soleimani’s killing in an air attack in the Iraqi capital.

In a joint news conference with Hussein, Zarif said a “stable and powerful” Iraq was in the interest of both the countries.

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“That is why we look forward to continued constructive bilateral negotiations. The stability, security and peace in Iraq is the stability of the entire region,” he said.

“Again, we reiterate that we are keen on maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq.”

The two foreign ministers met in the Iraqi foreign ministry in Baghdad [Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters]

Fuad Hussein said his country looked forward to continuing its “balanced relations” with all the countries in the region.

“[The relations are] based on first our national interest, then on mutual interest with our neighbours without any interfering in our domestic affairs.”

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Zarif visits Soleimani memorial
During his visit, Zarif visited a memorial to Soleimani at the site where he and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), were killed near Baghdad’s international airport.

Tehran had retaliated by firing a volley of ballistic missiles at US troops stationed in Iraq.

While the attack on the western Iraqi base of Ain al-Assad killed no US soldiers, dozens were reported to have suffered brain trauma.

Zarif said the assassination of Soleimani was “a criminal act”.

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“It is a loss to our country and to the entire region, and it undermines the international efforts for combating ISIL (ISIL) and terrorism in the region,” he said.

This was Zarif’s first visit to Iraq since the killing of Soleimani and formation of the new Iraqi government.

Reporting from Baghdad, Noble Reporters Media said the recent months have been turbulent for relations between Iran and Iraq.

“New Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has been stressing the importance of Iraq’s sovereignty,” she said.

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“He also recently moved against armed groups present in Iraq, such as Hezbollah, which is considered close to Iran,” she said, referring to the Lebanese Shia group backed by Tehran.

“This visit is aimed at recalibrating mutual relations and making sure Iran’s security, economic and political interests are represented in Iraq.”

Zarif’s visit comes a day before al-Kadhimi travels to Saudi Arabia and Iran next week in apparent attempt to balance his country’s ties with regional rivals in his first foreign trip as Iraq’s prime minister.


#Newsworthy…

U.S vs IRAN: We don’t want war – Iraqi said to U.S


Iran foreign minister has insisted they do not want a war despite firing more than a dozen ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq housing American troops in a revenge attack for the U.S. drone strike that killed their top Iranian general.

Foreign minister Javad Zarif defended the missile strikes saying Iran took ‘proportionate measures’ and was only acting in ‘self-defense’ when they struck back at the U.S.

Zarif, however, warned that Iran did not ‘seek escalation or war’ but vowed to continue defending themselves if the U.S. chooses to retaliate.

The firing of the missiles late Tuesday was a major escalation between Iran and the U.S. and raised immediate fears that the two longtime enemies were inching closer to war.

But the response from Iran’s foreign minister is one of a few indicators that there might not be further retaliation on either side – at least in the short term.


#Newsworthy…

U.S trashed Iran foreign minister’s visa to attend UN meeting


Iran’s foreign minister said on Tuesday he has been informed by UN chief Antonio Guterres that Washington has denied him a visa for a trip to UN headquarters in New York.

“What we know is that the US State Secretary (Mike Pompeo), in a call to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, said: ‘We did not have time to issue a visa for Mohammad Javad Zarif and we will not issue a visa’,” Zarif said.


“The Secretary-General responded by saying that it is Iran’s right to take part in this session,” Iran’s top diplomat said, quoted by semi-official news agency ISNA.

So far there has been no official confirmation from Washington that it has rejected Zarif’s visa application.


Zarif was speaking to reporters in Tehran at a gathering to promote an Iranian peace plan for the Gulf.

His remarks came as Iran held funeral processions on Tuesday for one of its top military commanders killed in a US drone strike in Iraq.


Qasem Soleimani’s assassination has sparked a war of words between the arch-foes, with Iran vowing “severe revenge” and US President Donald Trump threatening to hit back hard for any retaliation.

Trump warned on Saturday that Washington had lined up 52 targets if Tehran attacked US personnel or assets.


On Tuesday, Zarif said the US visa decision was “a sign of the bankruptcy of the US government and Trump’s regime”, according to ISNA.

The Iranian foreign minister said he had been planning to go UN headquarters on Thursday for an open debate on “Upholding the Charter of the United Nations”.


But he added that he had also intended to “raise America’s crimes” during his visit to New York.

It is not the first time that Iranian officials have encountered problems when travelling to New York for events at UN headquarters.


In December, the United Nations General Assembly called on the United States to lift restrictions on Iranian diplomats.

Since mid-2019, Iranian diplomats and ministers have been under strict movement restrictions when they are in the United States.

Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif


They are limited largely to the area around UN headquarters, the Iranian diplomatic mission and the ambassador’s residence.

In September, while taking part in the annual General Assembly, Zarif complained he was unable to visit the country’s UN ambassador in a US hospital.


#Newsworthy…