Imam Khamenei Receives Pakistan’s PM: Terror Groups Seek to ‘Contaminate’ Bilateral Ties

By Staff, Agencies

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei said terrorist groups backed by enemies of Iran and Pakistan seek to cause tension in the two countries’ relations, adding that mutual relations must be bolstered in spite of the enemies’ will.

Imam Khamenei made the remarks in a Monday meeting with the visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and his accompanying delegation in Tehran.

“Terrorist groups, which sow insecurity along borders, are fed with the enemies’ money and weapons and one of the goals sought through anti-security measures along Iran’s border with Pakistan is to contaminate the two countries’ relations,” Imam Khamenei noted.

His Eminence further emphasized that good relations between Tehran and Islamabad are beneficial to both sides, “but these relations have serious enemies, which despite their will, cooperation and contacts [between Iran and Pakistan] must be strengthening in various sectors.”

Explaining about the historical backdrop of the two countries’ relations, Imam Khamenei noted that the Indian subcontinent reached the acme of its progress and dignity under the rule of Muslims.

“The biggest blow dealt to this important region by the British colonialists was to annihilate the prominent Islamic civilization that existed there,” Imam Khamenei stated.

During the meeting, which was attended by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Khan explained about his negotiations in Tehran, saying, “Many problems were solved through these negotiations and Pakistani ministers held good talks with their Iranian counterparts.”

The Pakistani PM stated that there are certain hands at work to prevent Tehran and Islamabad from getting close, adding, “We try to make relations between the two countries stronger than before and we will maintain continuous contacts with the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Confirming Imam Khamenei’s remarks on India, Khan said the British colonialists plundered all the wealth of India, destroyed its education system and made India the crown jewel of their colonial rule.

Earlier in the day, Khan held talks and attended a joint press conference with the Iranian President.

Speaking after talks with Khan, Rouhani announced that Iran and Pakistan agreed to form a joint force to eliminate terrorist groups.

Rouhani: Iran, Pakistan to Form Joint Anti-Terror Force

By Staff, Press TV

Iran and Pakistan have agreed to form a joint force to eliminate terrorist groups as Prime Minister Imran Khan began his first visit to Tehran with a pledge not to join any coalition against the Islamic Republic. 

Rouhani announced the agreement on Monday after talks with Prime Minister Khan whose first visit to Tehran is hoped to start a new chapter in historic relations between the neighbors.

“We agreed to step up security cooperation between the two countries and their respective border security and intelligence forces while also forming a joint rapid reaction force on the shared borders to fight terrorism,” Rouhani said after a closed-door meeting with Khan.

The sensitive issue of border security was expected to dominate the conversation between Iranian and Pakistani officials.

Ahead of Khan’s visit, families of several Iranian border guards killed by terror groups wrote to the Pakistani leader and asked him to take swift action against groups freely crossing into Iran from Pakistan.

Iran had in the past urged Pakistan to address the issue, even offering to launch a joint military and intelligence operation to locate and eliminate terrorists in Pakistani territories.

In their latest attack, Pakistan-based terrorists martyred over 40 members of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC] by ramming an explosive-laden car to their bus in southeastern Iran in February.

“Unfortunately, over the past few months we had witnessed some tensions caused by some terrorists who acted savagely,” Rouhani said at a joint news conference in PM Khan on Monday.

“We are glad that the Pakistani side now recognizes groups with such inhumane conduct as terrorist and treats them as such.”

Rouhani said his meeting with Prime Minister Khan marked a new milestone in mutual ties, adding Iran and Pakistan would continue to maintain their close ties despite outside pressures.

“Both sides agree that no third country whatsoever can affect the friendly and brotherly ties that exist between Iran and Pakistan,” he said, adding that Khan had officially invited him for a visit to Islamabad.

According to Rouhani, they also agreed on the need for both sides to expand joint efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan.

Other security issues discussed in the meeting included US President Donald Trump’s recent designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization and his recognition of Syria’s occupied Golan Heights as “sraeli” territory, Rouhani noted.

Addressing reports about Saudi and US pressure on Islamabad to join an Arab-“Israeli” front against Iran in the region, Rouhani said PM Khan assured him that Pakistan “has never joined and will never join any coalition.”

Rouhani said Iran was ready to supply oil and gas to Pakistan and increase electricity exports to the country by ten-fold the current level.

He also said Tehran was interested in expanding trade between Iran’s Chabahar and Pakistan’s Gawader ports by connecting them with a railway.

The president noted that Iran, Turkey and Pakistan as co-founders of the Economic Cooperation Organization [ECO] could increase economic cooperation by connecting their railway systems. This, he said, would open a corridor from Europe to China.

Earlier in the day, Rouhani extended a formal welcome to Khan, whose historic visit to Tehran has been viewed as a major step towards opening a new era in relations between the two neighbors.

Khan and his high-profile delegation touched down in Tehran on Sunday night after a brief stop in the northeastern city of Mashhad, where the premier paid a visit to the holy shrine of Imam Reza (AS).

Rouhani led the welcome ceremony for Khan at the at Sa’adabad Complex, which was also attended by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Minister of Road and Industry Mohammad Eslami and a few other high-ranking members of the cabinet.

Khan is expected to meet later with Leader of Islamic Revolution His Eminence Imam Sayyed Ali Khamenei.

 

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Iran Remains Afloat: Sanctions will only Make Iran Stronger

Nour Rida-Iran

Since August 2018, US President Donald Trump has been vowing that the ‘harshest’ sanctions to be imposed on Iran will cripple its economy, reiterating that the target is not its people but rather bringing ‘change’ in the attitude of the Iranian government. More than 80 million ordinary citizens have been feeling the pinch as the rial tumbled and keeps fluctuating. Food prices, house rents, car prices soared all of a sudden and vital imported medicines and medical equipment began to run out.

Following the first round of sanctions imposed in August 2018, another round was imposed two months later in November. Recently too, the IRGC was also listed on the terror list and the American regime vowed to impose more sanctions. The US media hype makes the sanctions sound big, but what many people do not know is that many of the sanctions are not new and had already been in effect.

When Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he had the nerve to say he was doing it for the Iranian people. US secretary of state Mike Pompeo also defended the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, saying the new tough controls on oil, shipping and banking are not intended to harm the people.

All the assertions that renewed sanctions will not hurt ordinary Iranians are questioned. The sanctions have a direct impact on their daily lives. Medical groups have warned that the penalties will lead to severe shortages of essential medicines, endangering thousands of lives.

A medic at Shariati hospital, one of Tehran University hospitals told alahed news that “sanctions cause trouble in hospitals and in the health sector, with lack of instruments and some medicines.”

Dr. Vahid said that these sanctions lead to the death of some patients who cannot access treatment due to lack of essential medicines.

University students of higher education are also sarcastically affected by Trump’s policies that do not aim at targeting the people.

The faculty of Literature and Human Sciences at the prestigious Tehran University was coordinating with Arizona University to have a live-stream of the Second North American Conference in Iranian Linguistics (NACIL2), which took place April 19-21, 2019. Registration doors were open for academics and students in Iran to be part of scientific research and discussion.

A few days later following registration, the registrants received an email saying that the live-streaming on campus was canceled due to sanctions.

Simin Karimi, professor in the department of Linguistics at Arizona University wrote on her social media outlet “The cancelation of the live-streaming hit me greatly. I locked myself in my office for hours, crying like a baby, feeling totally hopeless and helpless. Why? It was so important for me to connect to our fellow linguists in Iran, to make it possible for the young generation of the Iranian linguists to be able to present their work, get feedback, hear about the research of their fellow linguists around the world, and benefit from this highly academic interaction. I thought this was a victory of technology beating politics”

She went on to say “This poster was circulated through the emails of participants with the words “cancelled” and “sanctions” on them, informing the participants of the cancellation of the live-streaming and asking them to provide their bank account numbers so that they get a refund for their registration fees.”

So the “devastating” impact of sanctions amounts to “collective punishment” of Iranian citizens for choosing to be different. However, what Trump and his friends at the White House do not understand is that Iran is a country of vast resources. Even when sanctions brought a drastic decline in exports — as was the case in the years leading up to the nuclear deal — the country managed to remain afloat. There’s little indication that things will be different this time.

Also, depriving Iranians from attending online conferences will not prevent them from carrying on with their scientific research. A Master’s student at the Tehran University who had registered to attend the conference said it was sad news that such is the case and that the live-streaming was canceled. Preferring to speak anonymously, he said that “In 2010 alone, reports said that scientific output has grown 11 times faster in Iran than the world average, which means it was faster than any other country. These sanctions cannot stop us from doing things and cannot break our will. Trump will have to understand this: sanctions, difficulties, and hardships will only make us stronger.”

Of course, these are only two simple examples of how Trump and his administrarion have been trying to crush the Iranian people. Oh and of course there is no media coverage of these stories or other stories, it is just not in the favor of Washington to have them covered by the media. Inside Iran, Trump has succeeded in making people hate him more and more for his viciousness. On the international arena, Trump also caused himself enough trouble that he is not the elephant in the room anymore.

President Rouhani said that his country would “proudly break” the re-imposed sanctions and that Iran was engaged in “an economic war” with the United States.

Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammed Javad Zarif said the sanctions reinforced what he called the growing isolation of the United States.

Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

Moscow’s Strategy: To Win Everywhere, Every Time

Important events have occurred in the Middle East and North Africa in recent weeks that underline how the overall political reconfiguration of the region is in full swing. The Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) continues its diplomatic relations and, following Rouhani’s meeting in Baghdad, it was the turn of Adil Abdul-Mahdi to be received in Tehran by the highest government and religious authorities. Among the many statements released, two in particular reveal the high level of cooperation between the two countries, as well as demonstrating how the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) is in full bloom, carrying significant prospects for the region. Abdul-Mahdi also reiterated that Iraq will not allow itself to be used as a platform from which to attack Iran:

“Iraqi soil will not be allowed to be used by foreign troops to launch any attacks against Iran. The plan is to export electricity and gas for other countries in the region.”

Considering that these two countries were mortal enemies during Saddam Hussein’s time, their rapprochement is quite a (geo)political miracle, owing much of its success to Russia’s involvement in the region. The 4+1 coalition (Russia, Iran, Iraq, Syria plus Hezbollah) and the anti-terrorism center in Baghdad came about as a result of Russia’s desire to coordinate all the allied parties in a single front. Russia’s military support of Syria, Iraq and Hezbollah (together with China’s economic support) has allowed Iran to begin to transform the region such that the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) can effectively counteract the destabilizing chaos unleashed by the trio of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

One of the gaps to be filled in the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) lies in Lebanon, which has long experienced an internal conflict between the many religious and political currents in the country. The decision by Washington to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel pushed the Lebanese president, Michel Aoun, to make an important symbolic visit to Moscow to meet with President Putin.

Once again, the destabilizing efforts of the Saudis, Israelis and Americans are having the unintended effect of strengthening the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance). It seems that this trio fails to understood how such acts as murdering Khashoggi, using civilian planes to hide behind in order to conduct bombing runs in Syria, recognizing the occupied territories like the Golan Heights – how these produce the opposite effects to the ones desired.

The supply of S-300 systems to Syria after the downing of the Russian reconnaissance plane took place as a result of Tel Aviv failing to think ahead and anticipate how Russia may respond.

What is surprising in Moscow’s actions is the versatility of its diplomacy, from the deployment of the S-300s in Syria, or the bombers in Iran, to the prompt meetings with Netanyahu in Moscow and Mohammad bin Salman at the G20. The ability of the Russian Federation to mediate and be present in almost every conflict on the globe restores to the country the international stature that is indispensable in counterbalancing the belligerence of the United States.

The main feature of Moscow’s approach is to find areas of common interest with its interlocutor and to favor the creation of trade or knowledge exchange. Another military and economic example can be found in a third axis; not the Shia or Saudi-Israeli-US one but the Turkish-Qatari one. In Syria, Erdogan started from positions that were exactly opposite to those of Putin and Assad. But with decisive military action and skilled diplomacy, the creation of the Astana format between Iran, Turkey and Russia made Turkey and Qatar publicly take the defense of Islamist takfiris and criminals in Idlib. Qatar for its part has a two-way connection with Turkey, but it is also in open conflict with the Saudi-Israeli axis, with the prospect of abandoning OPEC within a few weeks. This situation has allowed Moscow to open a series of negotiations with Doha on the topic of LNG, with these two players controlling most of the LNG on the planet. It is evident that also the Turkish-Qatari axis is strongly conditioned by Moscow and by the potential military agreements between Turkey and Russia (sale of S-400) and economic and energy agreements between Moscow and Doha.

America’s actions in the region risks combining the Qatari-Turkish front with the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance) , again thanks to Moscow’s skilful diplomatic work. The recent sale of nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia, together with the withdrawal from the JCPOA (the Iranian nuclear agreement), has created concern and bewilderment in the region and among Washington’s allies. The act of recognizing the occupied Golan Heights as belonging to Israel has brought together the Arab world as few events have done in recent times. Added to this, Trump’s open complaints about OPEC’s high pricing of oil has forced Riyadh to start wondering out aloud whether to start selling oil in a currency other than the dollar. This rumination was quickly denied, but it had already been aired. Such a decision would have grave implications for the petrodollar and most of the financial and economic power of the United States.

If the Shia axis (Axis of Resistance), with Russian protection, is strengthened throughout the Middle East, the Saudi-Israel-American triad loses momentum and falls apart, as seen in Libya, with Haftar now one step closer in unifying the country thanks to the support of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, France and Russia, with Fayez al-Sarraj now abandoned by the Italians and Americans awaiting his final defeat.

While the globe continues its multipolar transformation, the delicate balancing role played by Russia in the Middle East and North Africa is emphasized. The Venezuelan foreign minister’s recent visit to Syria shows how the front opposed to US imperialist bullying is not confined to the Middle East, with countries in direct or indirect conflict with Washington gathering together under the same protective Sino-Russian umbrella.

Trump’s “America First” policy, coupled with the conviction of American exceptionalism, is driving international relations towards two poles rather than multipolar ones, pushing China, Russia and all other countries opposed to the US to unite in order to collectively resist US diktats.

In Iraq, as US Influence Ebbs, Iran’s Flows

March 31, 2019 (Gunnar Ulson – NEO) – In the dead of Christmas night last year, to evade possibly being shot down, US President Donald Trump made a surprise, whirlwind visit to US troops in Iraq.

He visited Al Asad Air Base about 100 miles west of Baghdad in Al Anbar province, or about halfway between Baghdad and the Syrian border where US forces are also operating. Between Al Asad and Baghdad are the notorious cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, hotbeds of resistance after the 2003 US invasion, and since then, hotbeds of extremism fueling the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

The base is home to about 5,000 US service members.

As in Syria, America’s presence in Iraq seems to be clinging to areas where extremism and separatism are greatest. In many instances, it is the US openly and deliberately encouraging both, especially in Kurdish territory stretching over both nations, but also in areas dominated by Sunni Muslims where extremist fronts like Al Qaeda and IS believe they can find support.

The fact that President Trump visited American forces in the dead of night, meeting no one from the actual Iraqi military or government, helps illustrate the increasingly isolated position the US holds in Iraq.

While the US claims it is fighting extremists from Syria to Iraq and beyond, with Syrian, Russian, Iranian and Iraqi forces clearing these extremists out of virtually all corners of Syria and Iraq except where US forces occupy, it seems the US isn’t fighting extremism, it is cultivating it.

Enter Iran

Several months later, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made his first official visit to Iraq. His trip brought him to the center of the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. There he met with top representatives of the Iraqi government including Iraqi President Barham Salih. He also travelled through the city to visit Al-Kadhimiya Mosque, a particularly important pilgrimage site for Shia’a Muslims.

President Rouhani had previously commented on Trump’s swooping in at night and his failure to meet with any actual Iraqis in an open and official capacity. The Washington Post would quote President Rouhani as also stating:

“You have to walk in the streets of Baghdad … to find out how people will welcome you.”

In addition to meeting Iraqi representatives and leaders, and travelling through Baghdad, President Rouhani also signed agreements involving “oil and gas, land transport, railways, agriculture, industry, health and regarding the central bank,” the Washington Post would report.

French news portal France24 would note in their article, “Iraq attempts balancing act as Iran’s Rouhani arrives for first official visit,” that:

Last year, Iran’s exports to Iraq amounted to nearly $9 billion. Tehran hopes to increase the roughly $13 billion volume in trade between the two neighbouring countries to $20 billion. Also, some 5 million religious tourists bring in nearly $5 billion a year as Iraqis and Iranians visit Shiite holy sites in the two countries.

The article would note the growing ties between the two nations and the growing influence Iran has over Iraq in contrast to America’s ebbing presence there.

Iraq-Iran Ties are Built on Mutual Interests – US Ties are Built on Fabricated Threats 

The Trump-Rouhani visits and the stark contrast between the two illustrates another very important point.

President Trump would openly admit the US was in Iraq to “to watch Iran,” the New York Times would report.

The New York Times would also report:

Mr. Trump’s comments come as the United States has quietly been negotiating with Iraq for weeks to allow perhaps hundreds of American commandos and support troops now operating in Syria to shift to bases in Iraq and strike the Islamic State from there. Military leaders are seeking to maintain pressure on the militant group as the president fundamentally reorders policy toward Syria and toward Afghanistan, where peace talks with the Taliban are underway.

Yet there are serious problems with this claim. President Rouhani’s visit highlights Iran as a key ally for Iraq.

In terms of security, Iranian-backed militias helped rid Iraq as well as neighboring Syria of Al Qaeda, its affiliates and IS.

And as just pointed out, Iran is also a key economic partner for Iraq.

The US on the other hand has little to offer in terms of security or economics. Its presence in Iraq to allegedly fight extremists it and its regional allies themselves helped fund and arm in the first place, only adds to Iraq’s many security challenges.

In terms of economics, while the US provides Iraq a large export market, it is a market still dwarfed by China and India. It is also smaller than the combined export market of Iraq’s major European trade partners. The geographical proximity of Iraq and Iran to one another means deeper and more practical economic ties can be developed than anything on offer by the US, if economic partnership was actually one of Washington’s goals.

By President Trump’s own admission, the US is in Iraq not to assist it in any way, but to use it for Washington’s own self-serving agenda regarding neighboring Iran. Since the United States and its Persian Gulf allies have nothing of significant value to offer Iraq in terms of real security or economics, it is instead playing a diplomatic balancing act where it associates with and radicalizes Sunni communities, then poses as combating the terrorism that predictably results.

It is a balancing act that is hardly sustainable, especially opposite the significant security and economic benefits Iran can counter-offer Baghdad.

It is not hard to see why Iran’s influence in the Middle East continues to flow, despite being targeted by the US through an array of subversive measures, while US influence in the region ebbs despite having a clear advantage in terms of resources and military might.

It is also not hard to see the significance of remaining US bases in Iraq being in Kurdish areas or regions where extremism still persists. The US presence in Al Anbar, as pointed out as far back as 2017, along with supposed reconstruction aid offered by Washington’s Persian Gulf allies, all seems to point toward a strategy of growing an extremist threat to serve as a counterweight or spoiler against Iran’s constructive contributions to Iraq’s security situation and economic growth.

It is a strategy that will only further exhaust US credibility and resources, as well as those of its regional partners, all while forcing it opponents to expand further and dig in deeper, as Iran has been doing.

Despite claims that the biggest threats to US interests and national security are extremists in the Middle East, or even revisionist states like Russia and China, in truth, the United States’ biggest enemy is its own unsustainable foreign policy and the exhausting aggression that underpins it. Its ebbing influence in Iraq despite the trillions in dollars and many years invested there, serves as “exhibit A.”

Gunnar UIson, a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

ELIJAH J. MAGNIER: “IRAN UPSTAGES THE US IN IRAQ”

South Front

Written by Elijah J. Magnier – @ejmalrai; Originally appeared at his blog

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is visiting Iraq for three days, leading a large political and business delegation to deepen the relationship between the two countries. Rouhani met with the Iraqi President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament. The Iranian President visited Karbalaa this afternoon, is spending the night in Najaf and will be visiting on Wednesday the highest religious authority (Marjaiya) in the city the Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali al-Sistani, Sayyed Mohamad Saeed al-Hakeem, Sheikh Ishaq al-Fayyad and Sheikh Bashir al-Najafi. Rouhani’s public visit contrasts starkly with Trump’s recent covert visit to Iraq. Moreover, the projected economic and commercial cooperation between Iraq and Iran will not only mitigate US unilateral sanctions but will likely contribute to their failure. The bottom line question now arises: will Trump accept his loss to Iran or will he choose to lose Iraq as well by imposing sanctions on Mesopotamia?

Elijah J. Magnier: "Iran upstages the US in Iraq"

During the last week of 2018, President Trump’s plane turned off its lights to land safely in the US part of Ayn al-Assad base in Anbar province. Trump’s visit was kept secret and the Iraqi Prime Minister was informed on the same morning. Trump refused to land on the Iraqi side of the same base (Iraq and the US share the same military base with US forces holding full sovereignty over their area). For this reason, Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi, the Speaker Mohamad al-Halbousi and the President Barham Saleh refused to meet Trump, who stuck to his schedule and landed at night.

Trump concluded his visit in three hours and left under darkness of the night. He is reported to have murmured that it was not right that, for security reasons, the US president was forced to visit in secrecy in the middle of the night a country where the US has invested hundreds of billions of dollars in its stability.

On the other hand, Rouhani informed the Iraqi presidency of his visit a week in advance; the visit was publicly announced at the same time. Iraqi officials coordinated the schedule of the Iranian President’s trip with their Iranian counterparts. Rouhani is due to remain in Iraq for three days to conclude important economic-commercial deals, raising the level of commerce between the two countries to 20 billion dollars.

Elijah J. Magnier: "Iran upstages the US in Iraq"

The conclusion:

  1. Iran has prevailed over the US because the Iraqi officials have rejected any unilateral sanctions on Iran, insisting on commercial exchange, including energy supply and selling.
  2. Major General Qassem Soleimani achieved Iran’s goal of developing a friendly relationship with Iraq, where officials are ready to suspend relations with the US if Trump insists on imposing sanctions on any country dealing with Tehran. This achievement (and others) earned Soleimani Iran’s most prestigious medal of honour, “the order of Zulfiqar” awarded by Sayed Ali Khamenei. Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif was the first to congratulate Soleimani, describing him as “the man who made the Middle East a safer place”. It is Soleimani’s second medal; the first was “the order of Fath” received in 1989 from the same Khamenei.
  3. Iran will sell electricity to Iraq and will use dollars and the local currency in its exchange. The Islamic Republic has found new ways to counter the US sanctions by building industry infrastructure and railways, and by establishing large commercial exchanges with Iraq. This will bring more dollars to Iran and will, simultaneously, help the country rely less on US dollars by doing business in the local currency.

Trump’s foreign policy and sanctions around the world are forcing countries to find alternatives to the US monetary system and trade. Although so far with little impact, Europe is introducing a special purpose vehicle (SPV) to support trade with Iran as an alternative to the US Swift global financial messaging service. China, Russia, India and many other countries dealing with Iran have agreed to carry on their exchanges mainly but not exclusively in local currency to bypass US sanctions.

Iraq today is divided between a large faction of politicians calling for the total withdrawal of US forces from the country, and another which wants to maintain a reduced US force in charge of training and intelligence exchange. Both factions want to see most US forces leave the country, and can likely reach an agreement on accepting a small specialised force on the ground. The Iraqi government would like to strike a balance and maintain both a fair relationship with the US and excellent ties with Iran.

Trump has two choices. He could choose to cut his relationship with Iraq, which would amount to shooting himself in the foot. The presence of US forces in Iraq is essential to US objectives and hegemony in the Middle East. Moreover, it is unclear for how long US forces will be able to occupy Syria. The alternative would be for Trump to accept the fact that his sanctions against Iran will fail as Iranian-Iraqi energy and commercial deals develop. In this case, the US President would be accepting the failure of his sanctions and his plan to change the Iranian regime “in a few months”.

Whatever he decides, Trump has lost: the US establishment failed in its attempt to damage Iran and either change its ruling system or bring the country to its knees. All Trump has accomplished is to put stress on the Iranian economy, bringing hardship to the population while forcing local officials to find new solutions, with the help of Iraq’s new leadership. The US failure to impose its proxies as rulers of Iraq helped Soleimani win his medal of honour.

Proof-read byC.B.

Trump”s Confused Middle East Foibles Are Actually Pushing Assad and Erdogan into each other”s arms

Trump’s Confused Middle East Foibles Are Actually Pushing Assad and Erdogan into each other’s arms

MARTIN JAY | 15.03.2019 | FEATURED STORY

Trump’s Confused Middle East Foibles Are Actually Pushing Assad and Erdogan into each other’s arms

Trump’s foreign policy gambles in the Middle East just continue to shake the region up, causing confusion, betrayal and, more recently, a new arms race which is all heading towards more bloodshed there, as ISIS appears to be in decline and Russia, Iran and Turkey continue to look like stronger players.

Despite Iran sanctions, Tehran continues to show its strength in its sheer resilience and its brash cavalier attitude towards other countries in the region; barely days after if foreign minister resigns – but then withdraws it – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani takes a trip to Iraq, to remind the Americans that Tehran still wields considerable power and influence there, as well as Syria, Lebanon and also Qatar and Turkey.

The shake-up which is as a direct result of Trump’s erroneous decisions in the region has led though to an arms race starting, amid rumours of Trump wanting to sell nuclear arms to Saudi Arabia – despite Riyadh going rogue recently on arms procurement and looking more to Russia and China. In recent weeks we heard of reports of Hezbollah’s new missiles in Lebanon having updated heads fitted which makes them even more precise than previously thought, which is a chilling thought for the Israelis who have been mulling the timing of Hassan Nasrallah’s threat to use them if Israel continues to target Hezbollah fighters in Syria. More recently, American THAAD missiles were sent to Israel, as a direct consequence of the Nasrallah comment, as the Hezbollah leader never does empty threats; but it’s also about Iran’s missile capability which is making the Israelis a tad skittish.

And they’re right to be, but not exclusively because of the Iran sanctions and its missile capabilities.

It’s also about Turkey. In January, a secret document revealed that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE considered Turkey to be the real threat to their power in the region, which has changed the focus of their aggression and, in part, is responsible for a number of embassies reopening in the Syrian capital. The West believes that a softening of isolation might bring Assad farther away from Iran and Russia and align itself more with the Arab super powers in the region.

This idea, on its own, had some feasibility, until just very recently when it looked like Turkey’s firebrand leader had fired the starter’s pistol on a new level of difficult relations with Washington by making it clear that Ankara’s new accord with Russia over missiles – the revered S-400 system – is a done deal. President Erdogan has made it clear that nothing will stop this deal going ahead which means for Israel that he is edging closer to the Russia-Iran powerbase and, critically, towards a situation which the author has been arguing for months is inevitable: a thaw of relations with Assad.

Given that part of the Saudi-Israeli plan was to support the Kurds in Northern Syria in a new campaign to clear Turkish forces of their large enclave – perched in between Al Qaeda extremists on one side and Kurdish fighters on the other – it has pushed Erdogan to do what many would argue would be a no brainer, which is to consider cooperating with Assad, as both have a common objective of hitting the Kurds, Israelis and the Saudis at the same time. A triple whammy for both of them.

This scenario, if it pans out (as so far we have only heard reports of back channel talks between Ankara and Damascus) would be devastating for Israel, which is struggling presently with having Russia as an Assad ally to bypass before it hits Hezbollah targets; but for Turkey to be even a distant ally of Assad could spell disaster for Israel, which cannot afford to clash with Turkey – itself the premise of a completely new conflict which has been brewing for years, given the acrimonious and vociferous exchange of insults both leaders have flung at one another last year; Erdogan attacks Netanyahu over the latter’s appalling treatment of Palestinians, while the Israeli leader uses Erdogan’s unparalleled fondness of locking up journalists as return-fire ammo.

In reality, both of them are tarnished with an abysmal human rights record but both have used one another for political capital. That arrangement, until now a verbal one, might change if Assad were to actually let bygones be bygones and strike a deal with Erdogan.

If that were to happen, Trump would also completely slam the door on Turkey and make it also a target of hatred and ridicule – as no one but Trump will take it as personally as the US president, who has shown remarkable resilience towards the Turkish leader who has tested his patience on a number of occasions in the last two years. An Assad-Erdogan pact could spark a crisis within NATO and make Russia and Iran bolder than ever before in the region as Trump’s refusal to stop arming Kurdish factions in northern Syria – along with suspending the F-35 fighter jet program – is likely to reach a tipping point between Ankara and Washington. For Erdogan to play the ace card – Assad – would be a smart move to put Trump in his place, assert Turkey’s power in Syria and weaken the Kurds in one blow.

Rouhani’s Visit to Iraq: Huge Economic Cooperation at Eastern Gate of Arab World

Wed Mar 13, 2019

Rouhani’s Visit to Iraq: Huge Economic Cooperation at Eastern Gate of Arab World

TEHRAN (FNA)- The agreements sealed during the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Iraq mark the start of the largest economic cooperation project between the two neighboring states in the region.

In the 1990s, when the US decided after Operation Desert Storm and annihilation of 70 percent of Iraq’s Army to re-instate Saddam Hussain rather than conquering Baghdad, there was only one thing revolving in the mind of Washington’s politicians: to prevent the Shiite revolutionary movement, which was gaining momentum after the Intifada (uprisings) in Southern Iraq and becoming an independent powerhouse, from getting strengthened.

Despite the fact that in 1991 the Iraqi army had lost control of all Shiite regions, the scale was tipped in favor of Saddam’s regime when the US-led coalition allowed the dictator to fly his Mil Mi-24 helicopters which led to the largest massacre of the Shiite population in Iraq.

Interestingly, in 2014, when the ISIL terrorists conquered Mosul, one of the biggest cities in Iraq, a parallel course of event was to happen. While the terrorists were approaching the gates of Baghdad and the repetitive calls of the Iraqi government for winning the air support of the US-led coalition had failed, Iran’s strong entry into war to help its Western neighbor turned the whole tide. Now after 5 years, not only nothing has been left of the ISIL in Iraq, but also the position of Shiite-led central government in the Arab country has been cemented more than ever.

From The Fall of the Eastern Gate To The Resistance Front  

Iraq was the Eastern Gate of the Arab World, in the mindset of Saddam Hussain, to resist against Iran’s infiltration. Wafiq al-Samarrai, Director of Iran desk in Iraqi Army’s Intelligence Organization during the 8-year war of the Baathist regime against Iran has thoroughly evaluated and discussed this concept in his book of memoirs, ‘The Ruins of the Eastern Gate’.

Now after the falloff of the ISIL in a few-year-old war, Iraq has become part of an alliance which is called the Resistance Front. A front which is based on not religious motives as claimed in the West’s Shiite Crescent theory, but on a pro-independence essence opposing the Westerners’ interference in the fate of Muslim countries.

Heading Toward $20Billion Trade

President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq is exactly highlighting the same strategic cooperation. Although the Tehran-Baghdad strong ties in security areas have fruited great successes in the past couple of years, it seems that the ties are expected to develop at a serious level to other areas.

Economy is one of the main areas which was placed under the spotlight by the officials of the two countries during the recent visit of President Rouhani to Iraq. Undoubtedly, Iran enjoys a unique status for develop economic cooperation with Iraq.

The two countries share more than 1000 kilometers of borderline fittingly tied with identical ethnic patterns across the borders. For instance, Iran’s Kurdish provinces share borders with the Iraqi region of Kurdistan and accordingly can serve as an economic hub in the region because of the ethnic and lingual commonalities.

Also most of Iran’s Southwestern provinces which share border with Iraq are resided by Arab and Shiite Iranians which again positively contribute to cross-border interactions.

Besides, despite the fact that Iraq’s Western and Northern governorates like al-Anbar and Nineveh are home to bloody battles with the ISIL terrorists, security has been preserved so far in Eastern governorates which share border with Iran.

All these realities as well as the nearly 2 million Iranians who travel to the Iraqi cities of Karbala and Najaf in Arbaeen pilgrimage season have ushered in good trade between Iran and Iraq.

However, a study of economic figures shows that Iran’s share of Iraq’s market, particularly its growth in the past couple of years, still fails to match the two sides’ potentials.

This is exactly one of the very issues which drew much of the attention in the recent visit of President Rouhani to Iraq. Iranian and Iraqi officials held countless meetings and seminars before the Rouhani visit to discuss proper and wide avenues for expanding relations.

The truth is that Iran is competing with serious regional and international rivals in Iraq’s market. Turkey is one of the countries which are seriously marketing and expanding their share of the market in the food products section in Iraq.

Nevertheless it has to be born in mind that Turkey’s presence in Iraq’s market is nothing anew and an outcome of the last years. Rather, Turkey was one of the big suppliers of Iraq’s market during the reign of Saddam Hussain. Yet, the facts stated earlier display that Iran enjoys better capabilities for exporting goods to Iraq.

China and the UAE are among the other competitors in Iraq’s market, specially in the field of consumer durable goods.

Considering the situation, Iranian and Iraqi merchants held numerous meetings on the ways to expand trade between the two countries during President Rouhani’s visit.

Iran’s Ambassador to Baghdad Iraj Masjedi had already said at an economic seminar in Baghdad that the two countries have set a $20 billion objective for the volume of their trade.

This figure may seem a bit out of reach at the first sight, but it is assuredly accessible considering that Iraq is now entering a phase of reconstruction after the war against terrorism and peace has been restored in its cities.

The decision to issue visas for the nationals of the two countries free of charge was another important accomplishment of President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq which can act as a catalyst further facilitating cross-border travels for the nationals of the two sides.

US Worried About Sanctions-Busting

One of the motives behind President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq was the capacities of this Arab country in helping Iran to bypass the US’ unilateral sanctions.

Tehran is going to use Iraq’s help for finding a way around new sanctions to meet its financial needs, as it did in the last round of bans with the help of Turkey.

The fact is that thanks to broad suitcase trade between Iran and Iraq in areas of trade of commodities and foreign currencies exchange, the typical sanctions imposed by the US Treasury Department are unable to cause a sensible disruption in the bilateral channels between the two sides.

The reiterations of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Iraqi officials about the suitcase trade of hard currency across the border of Iran and Iraq is reflecting the same very concern.

Iran is capable of importing many of its needed goods, which are not easily accessible because of financial and insurance limitations caused by sanctions, immediately through re-exporting them from Iraqi market. Accordingly, Iraq would be playing the same role once played by the UAE.

Many hold that oil rich port of Basra in Southern Iraq which is also the richest city of the country is enjoying the potential to become the second Dubai in the region. Iran can play the same role it played for flourishing Dubai in the 1980s.

The recent visit of the Governor of the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) Abdolnasser Hemmati and the serious memorandum of understanding signed on banking relations between Tehran and Baghdad underlines the importance of Iraq’s banking system for Iran. Besides, Iraq has a broad network of currency relations with the world, through a system of exchange centers, particularly with East European countries, which is of high value for Iran.

One of the objectives of President Rouhani’s visit to Iraq which was not announced publicly was to expand these very kind of relations, and assuredly the officials of the two countries have discussed this issue in their meetings, and certainly the Americans are after stopping these relations at any level.

Iran and Iraq as Pillars of Future Energy Exchange Hub in Region

Expanding cooperation on energy was also among the issues discussed for broadening bilateral cooperation between the two countries in the meetings of President Rouhani in Iraq.

This was the very same demand that made US President Donald Trump to agree with granting exemptions to Iraq to import energy from Iran during the first batch of sanctions against Tehran. However, some US-backed regional countries are after undermining Iran’s position in Iraq.

For example Saudi Arabia is after weakening Iran’s role in this area with exporting electricity to Iraq. The main point is that Rouhani’s visit to Iraq can mark a starting point for broader energy cooperation of the two countries in the region’s energy market.

Iraq has three gas fields and the country will start producing gas by the next five years. Although the early production of gas by Iraq may make the country needless of importing the energy carrier, the growing demand for electricity in the Arab country means Baghdad will continue importing energy from Iran.

In addition, Iraq is bordering Kuwait and Jordan which both are electricity thirsty and Iraq can act as an energy hub in the region to export Iran’s gas to the two countries besides meeting its own needs.

The same scenario is applicable to electricity to let Iraq play a stabilizing role in the region. The path may seem very long but Prescient Rouhani’s visit to Iraq marked a golden start for this long march.

Start of Huge Economic Cooperation in Region

Eleven years ago, when Iran’s ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad traveled to Iraq, the country was still under the US occupation.

And now in era of Rouhani, these are the Iraqi security forces who are providing security in Baghdad with the help of their Iranian partners.

Moving along the same line, we may rightfully expect inaguration of mega projects during the visit of the next Iranian president to Baghdad. This path, despite being long, is the future within the reach of the hands of the two nations.

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