Baghdad and Tehran pursuing closer ties (thanks to Mike Pompeo)

Tehran, Baghdad discuss expansion of ties in defiance of US pressures

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (R) receives Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh in Baghdad, January 10, 2019.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (R) receives Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh in Baghdad, January 10, 2019.

Top officials from Iran and Iraq held talks on Thursday on ways to boost cooperation between the two neighboring countries, just one day after a surprise visit by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to the Arab country, which was supposed to convince Baghdad to restrict its ties with Tehran.

Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh on Thursday met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, whose office said he “confirmed the deep relations between the two countries, the two neighboring peoples and the importance of strengthening them in areas that serve the interests of the two peoples, foremost of which is cooperation in the fields of oil and gas.”

The Iraqi premier’s office also said the Iranian oil minister “expressed his country’s pride in the level of relations with Iraq and the aspiration to develop them, and hoped to achieve more cooperation and to meet the needs of Iraq’s gas.”

PM Abdul-Mahdi had earlier declared his country “will not be part of the [US] sanctions regime, as it will not be part of aggression against any country.”

The Iranian minister also held talks with Iraqi President Barham Salih, who said promotion of ties between Tehran and Baghdad would serve the stability and security of the entire Middle East.

The talks were held after Pompeo’s meeting with Abdul-Mahdi on Wednesday, where the two discussed “US support for Iraq’s energy independence” from Iran among other issues.

The US official’s unannounced visit to Baghdad was part of his tour of the Middle East meant to promote the White House’s hard-line position on Iran.

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