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Iran's Zarif Arrives In Iraq To Discuss Regional Tensions

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Alhakim, right, hold a press conference his visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif, at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Building in Baghdad, March 10, 2019

Iraq's parliament speaker announced Saturday, May 25 that Baghdad is ready to mediate between the United States and Iran if it is asked to do so.

Mohamad Halbousi's comments, carried by state TV, came shortly after Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Baghdad beginning a two-day visit.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi announced May 21 that his country is planning to send delegations to Washington and Tehran to help ease tensions between the United States and Iran. Since then there has been no information if any Iraqi delegations have visited Tehran or Washington.

Tension between the U.S. and Iran have escalated ever since the Trump administration withdrew last year from the 2015 nuclear deal between the Islamic Republic and world powers and reinstated American sanctions that have badly damaged the Iranian economy.

President Donald Trump has argued that the nuclear deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran's ability to develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle East that the U.S. argues destabilize the region.

Al-Halbousi repeated Iraq's offer, saying, "We are ready to mediate to solve the crisis between Washington and Tehran if we are asked for that". Iraq has close ties with both Washington and Tehran. He added that there has been "no official request for such mediation."

In case of a military conflict between Iran and the U.S. Iraq will find itself in a difficult situation. Tehran has many allies among Iraqi Shiites, but its government has relied on American assistance in defending against Sunni militants.

During his visit to Baghdad, Zarif will meet his Iraqi counterpart Mohamed al-Hakim, Iraqi President Barham Salih, and Abdul-Mahdi, according to Iran's state news agency.

Iraq's Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Sahhaf said Zarif will discuss the situation in the region and ways of finding common ground.

On Friday, Zarif was in Pakistan and met officials there as tensions have ratcheted up in the Mideast.