TEHRAN – As Iranian and Iraqi defense officials held talks in Tehran on Sunday to discuss ways to boost defense cooperation, an expert on West Asia told the Tehran Times that Iran and Iraq enjoy strategic relations because they have many things in common.
During his visit to Iran, the Iraqi defense minister sought to strengthen these relations, a move that was warmly welcomed by Iran.
Heading a high-ranking delegation of Iraqi military commanders, Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Inad Saadoun arrived in Tehran on Saturday at the formal invitation of his Iranian defense minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami. During the meeting, the two defense ministers discussed a variety of issues such as the fight against terrorism, boosting the defense capabilities of Iraq, and developments in the region.
During his meeting with Inad Saadoun, Hatami said Iraq now enjoys better security than in the past, adding that Iran will continue to support the political process and the stability and security of Iraq and its territorial integrity.
“We consider the development of Iraq as a prerequisite for establishing stability and security in that country, and we are ready to participate in the reconstruction and development of Iraq,” Hatami was quoted by Fars news agency as saying on Saturday.
Hatami also expressed Iran’s readiness to boost Iraq’s defense capabilities and meet the needs of the Iraqi Armed Forces.
The Iraqi defense minister, for his part, appreciated Iran’s support for Iraq in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group, saying that the first goal of his trip to Iran was to boost and strengthen the relations between the two countries and the other goal was to get acquainted with the scientific and technological achievements of the Islamic Republic of Iran and gain valuable experiences in the defense arena.
During the second day of his visit, the Iraqi defense minister also met with Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Bagheri and Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council.
“So far, we have had and will have various discussions in all fields. The two countries have also prepared a document that is in the final stages and will be signed in the near future,” Bagheri said on Sunday at the sideline of the meeting with Inad Saadoun.
Bagheri added, “The minister of defense and the commanders of the Navy, Air Force, Air Defense, and some other Iraqi commanders came to our country and discussed how to develop and deepen defense and military cooperation.”
According to Bagheri, the Iraqi officials met with their Iranian counterparts and discussed several issues.
“During this meeting, issues related to the defense industry and security of the two countries’ shared borders, as well as issues related to cooperation and exchange of experiences, joint military exercises and training issues were discussed, and God willing, this cooperation will be developed,” pointed out the military chief.
The general also noted that Iran has signed defense contracts with Iraq in the past and has provided it with the military products it needed.
Iran and Iraq enjoy “strategic relations” that are based on many commonalities, according to the Seyed Reza Sadr al-Hosseini, an expert on the Western Asia region.
Sadr al-Hosseini said these strategic relations derive from factors such as long shared borders, shared culture, and the fact that the two countries can play an effective role in the region.
“Expanding cooperation in various fields such as political, cultural and defense fields can be very effective in strengthening these strategic relations,” Sadr al-Hosseini told the Tehran Times, adding that Iraq has lost its defense capabilities over the past decades and that it needs to boost its capabilities.
According to the expert, Iraq’s military incurred remarkable damage after the Iran-Iraq war because the United States heavily bombed Iraq and destroyed much of its military equipment. Sadr al-Hosseini also pointed to the impact that the war against the Daesh terrorist group had on Iraq’s defense capabilities, saying that during the war against Daesh Iraq’s military suffered serious damage.
“Increasing and deepening relations [with Iran] in all fields, especially in the defense sector, is currently very important to Iraq given the cordial cooperation that Iran had with Iraq in the fight against terrorism,” pointed out Sadr al-Hosseini, noting that Inad Saadoun’s visit to Iran is very necessary considering the existing agreements between Tehran and Baghdad regarding Iran’s efforts to provide Iraq with defense equipment.
The expert said that holding defense talks between Tehran and Baghdad is important given developments in the region.
Iran has strong relations with Iraq’s various political and military institutions such as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) which played a crucial role in defeating Daesh with Iran’s support. Some media outlets in Iraq and beyond have sought to portray Iran’s dealing with the PMF as an improper relation that marginalizes Iraq’s conventional Army despite the fact that the PMF is a formal Iraqi institution on par with the country’s conventional Army.
Sadr al-Hosseini rejected the claim that Iran is favoring one Iraqi institution over the other as “rumors” that are “untrue.”
He said the PMF is an official Iraqi institution and Iran’s relations with it are in accordance with the rules of Iraq’s military.
“The Iraqi defense minister’s visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran can dispel these rumors while boosting the armed forces of the two countries,” noted Sadr al-Hosseini, underling that these rumors are only intended to undermine Iran-Iraq relations.