Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has arrived in Baghdad for a visit weeks after a new prime minister was appointed in Iraq, who seems to have a tougher stance toward Iran’s proxy militias is scheduled to visit Tehran on July 21.
Upon his arrival Zarif told reporters, according to Iranian media, that he will review the case of former Iranian Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani who was killed by a U.S. drone attack in Baghdad on January 3.
Zarif said the purpose of his trip was to follow up on agreements reached during President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq in March 2019, when the two countries agreed on several economic and trade deals, including building a railway linking Iran with Iraq.
Iraq, which receives financial and military support from Washington, has attempted to balance its relations with the United States and Iran, which carries significant political influence among Iraq's Shiites and controls a vast network of armed militias. This has led to anti-Iran sentiments that has manifested itself in popular protests since October 2019.
The protests brought down the previous Iraq government and after months of uncertainty Mustafa Al-Kadhimi became prime minister. He has exhibited more independence from Iran and a tougher stance against Iran’s armed proxies.
Zarif in Baghdad said he will meet with the Iraqi president, prime minister and many other leaders.
Al-Kadhimi will travel to Saudi Arabia and Iran on Monday and Tuesday, in what is a traditional approach by Baghdad to balance relations with its two powerful neighbors who are each other’s arch enemies.
Zarif however said that his visit to Baghdad was planned long before and is not a visit to plan Al-Kadhimi’s trip to Iran.