Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who is on an extended tour of Iraq responded to his American counterpart, saying the United States has no right to interfere in bilateral relations between Tehran and Baghdad.
U.S. Secretary of State who was recently touring the Mideast visited Iraq January 9 and told Iraqi leaders Iran’s influence must be reduced in the country.
Iraq is the second biggest export market for Iran, which is facing an economic crisis after Washington imposed tough sanctions in 2018, making a number of demands from the Islamic Republic. There are signs that Iran is losing economic ground in Iraq and Zarif’s trip is to a large extend meant to prevent further deterioration.
Zarif told reporters in Najaf, Iraq on Thursday that Iran’s relations with Iraq are much older than the United States, according to IRNA.
Iran’s foreign minister also expressed optimism about the future of political and economic relations with Iraq, saying relations will be “brilliant”.
Iraq also purchases a large quantity of Iranian fuel to generate electricity and the U.S. has extended a waiver from sanctions allowing Baghdad to continue imports from Iran.
It is a delicate balancing act for Washington to maintain good relations with Iraq but gradually put pressure on Baghdad for reduction of relations with Iran.
Iran also has extensive relations with a multitude of Iraqi political and militia groups and wields influence among the country’s elite.