Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Middle East: Larijani - Deepening of ties to benefit Iranian, Iraqi Muslims

Source: IRIN

Tehran, April 23, IRNA – IRI Parliament Speaker said in a meeting with Iraqi Justice Minister that Islamic Republic of Iran has always been supporter of Iraqi nation during post-dictatorship era, adding that deepening of comprehensive ties would benefit both countries.

Ali Larijani also expressed happiness over the constantly growing trend of the bilateral political, economic, cultural, and particularly parliamentary relations between Iran and Iraq, adding, 'The Islamic Parliament fully supports the reached agreements between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Iraq.'

According to IRNA, the Islamic Parliament, Majlis, News and Media Office further reported Larijani as saying that unity among the Iraqi Shi'a and Sunni citizens is a dire necessity for that country, reiterating, 'Some governments are trying to sow the seeds of discord among the Iraqi political groups to weaken the political system in your country.'

He evaluated the shared stands of the two countries over the regional and international developments as a positive point in Iran-Iraq relations, adding, 'Close viewpoints and continuous consultations between the two countries' officials can secure peace and stability in the region.'

He said that the successful holding of Iraqi district councils' elections was a noticeable achievement for the Iraqi government and nation.

The Iraqi Justice Minister Hassan al-Shemri, too, in the meeting considered the expansion of political and economic relations between the two countries as an important necessity for Iraq, arguing, 'We must take full advantage of the existing capacities in the two countries for further expansion of friendly relations and cooperation.'

Speaking about the MKO grouplet issue in Iraq, he said, 'Presently a greater extent of control is observed over the presence of this grouplet in Iraq, and in collaboration with the international societies, appropriate moves aimed at full evacuation of them from Iraq are in process.'

After the US-led war on Iraq started in 2003, Tehran strongly opposed the invasion, calling for a key role of the UN in Iraq's reconstruction. Iran then offered assistance to Iraq's post-war reconstruction and bilateral relations began to improve. In May 2005, a transitional government led by Ibrahim al-Ja'fari of the pro-Iran Islamist Da'wa party was established in Iraq. In mid May, the Iranian foreign minister at the time, Kamal Kharrazi visited Iraq and PM Ja'fari paid a visit to Iran in July. In November, Iraqi president Jalal Talabani visited Iran, becoming the first Iraqi head of state to visit Iran in almost four decades.

Iran–Iraq relations have flourished since 2005 by the exchange of high level visits: Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki makes frequent visits, along with Jalal Talabani visiting numerous times, to help boost bilateral cooperation in all fields.

Iran plays an important role in the Iraqi reconstruction. Iran’s non-oil exports to Iraq were valued at $1.8 billion in 2007 and $2.3 billion in 2008. Each month, more than 40,000 Iranians visit the Shi'a holy sites, such as Najaf and Karbala, buying religious souvenirs and supporting the economy through tourism.

Iraq imports cars, construction materials, medicine, fruits and spices, fish, air conditioners, office furniture, carpets and apparel from Iran. Basra alone imports $45 million of goods from Iran each year, including carpets, construction materials, fish and spices. Each day, 100 to 150 commercial trucks transport goods from Iran to Iraq through the nearby Shalamcheh border crossing (2008). As of January 2010, the two countries have signed over 100 economic and cooperation agreements. The volume of trade between Iran and Iraq is expected to double from $4 billion in 2009 to $8 billion in 2010. The main areas of trade between the two countries are the construction, food and industrial sectors.

By mid-1981, the MKO was fighting street battles against the Islamic Revolutionary Guards. During the Iran–Iraq War, the group was given refuge by Saddam Hussein and mounted attacks on Iran from within Iraqi territory.

' While the MKO's leadership has resided in Paris France, the group's core members were for many years confined to Camp Ashraf in Iraq, and 'were disarmed in the wake of the US-led invasion and are said to have adhered to a ceasefire.' The group's remaining 3,200 members were recently compelled to move to ex-US military base Camp Liberty. In January 2013, following the removal of MKO from Camp Ashraf, Sadeq al-Hosseini, the deputy chairman of Diyala's provincial council affirmed that several mass graves have been unearthed there. The MKO has always provided the United States with intelligence on Iran's peaceful nuclear program, fabricating lies about its nature.

Iraq and Iran designate the MKO as a terrorist organization.

Courtesy: Wikipedia for the backgound on Iran-Iraq ties; MKO