By John Lee.

Iraq, Iran and Syria are reportedly planning to build a railway connecting the three countries.

According to media reports, Salib al-Hussaini, the head of the Iraqi Railway Company, has announced a tripartite summit to discuss the project.

(Source: Prensa Latina)

(Picture credit: Christian Lindgren)

The Iranian president’s chief of staff said Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to establish five joint industrial parks, including one in Iran’s border province of Kurdistan.

Speaking at a meeting on economic development of Kurdistan in the city of Sanandaj on Saturday, Mahmoud Vaezi said Iran and Iraq have devised plans to set up five joint industrial parks.

One of them is scheduled to be built in the province of Kurdistan, he added.

Iran is the top exporter of goods to Iraq, Vaezi said, noting that Iraq and its Kurdistan Region provide a perfect opportunity for Iran to boost exports and deal with the cruel US sanctions.

During Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to Iraq in March, the two countries signed five deals to promote cooperation in various fields.

The documents entail cooperation between Iran and Iraq concerning the Basra-Shalamcheh railroad project, visa facilitation for investors, cooperation in the health sector, and agreements between the Ministry of Industry, Mines and Trade of Iran and Ministry of Trade of Iraq, and another one in the field of oil between the petroleum ministries of the two countries.

Iran’s Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Reza Rahmani has said that Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to reach the target of raising the value of annual trade exchange to $20 billion within two years.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Hamidreza Azizi for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iran, Iraq forge ahead with collaboration amid US pressure

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited Tehran April 6-7, his first official visit to the neighboring country since assuming office in October 2018. Accompanied by a large delegation of high-ranking Iraqi officials and representatives of the private sector, Abdul Mahdi came to Tehran at the formal invitation of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Apart from meeting with Rouhani, the Iraqi leader also met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and attended a joint meeting of the Iranian and Iraqi business sectors at the Iran Chamber of Commerce.

The visit came less than a month after Rouhani’s visit to Iraq — the first by the Iranian president since taking office in 2013 — in which the two sides reached a number of important agreements, mostly on economic issues.

Click here to read the full story.

Iran and Iraq have reached an understanding on the joint development of the Naft Shahr and Khorramshahr oilfields, Iranian Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh has announced.

Speaking on Sunday, during a visit to the Energy Industries Engineering and Design (EIED), an affiliate to the Oil Industries’ Engineering and Construction (OIEC), the official said:

“There are massive potentialities for expanding Iran-Iraq cooperation in oil, gas, refining and petrochemicals grounds, and Iran is ready to offer its capabilities to the Iraqi oil industry.”

He added that Thamer al-Ghadhban, Iraqi minister of oil, during a visit to EIED, learned about the capacities of the company, and it was decided that a joint partnership be established between OIEC and a similar company in Iraq in order to develop joint capacity utilization.”

The official further said that Iran had a lot of potentialities in the oil, gas, refining and petrochemicals sectors, adding: “Given the lack of development in the petrochemicals and gas industries in Iraq, there is a bright perspective for cooperation between the two countries.”

He also said that Iran’s gas dues from Iraq stood at a billion dollars already.

Iran the only exporter of natural gas to neighboring Iraq, both members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

(Source: Shana)

Iran’s Top General Unveils Plan for Air Defense Cooperation with Iraq

Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri said Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to launch air defense cooperation to combat possible threats to Iran’s western border.

Briefing reporters on the results of a meeting with his Iraqi counterpart in Tehran, Major General Baqeri said Iran and Iraq have warm relations in military areas.

“Iran and Iraq have deep commonalities. Our relations with Iraq are different from those with other countries because Iran and Iraq enjoy common interests and are exposed to common threats,” IFP quoted him as saying.

The general then referred to the great number of Iranian religious tourists visiting Iraq each year, noting that the militaries of the two sides need to establish further cooperation to preserve regional security and achieve their common goals.

He also pointed to his recent visit to Damascus for a trilateral meeting with his Iraqi and Syrian counterparts on regional security, adding that during the meeting, he held some discussions on military cooperation between the three countries.

“And during my meeting with Iraqi commander in Tehran, we discussed border issues. Meanwhile, based on an agreement reached by two sides’ high-ranking officials, Iran and Iraq are set to dredge the Arvand river in the near future. The security of the project is expected to be provided by the two sides’ militaries. We also exchanged views on Iran and Iraq cooperation in the river to strengthen the Persian Gulf’s security,” he said.

Elsewhere, the top general said during the meeting, he also urged reopening of the Khosravi border checkpoint for Iranian religious tourists.

“The Iraqi official promised to provide Iranian religious tourists with a safe road through Diyala province and reopen the Khosravi border checkpoint in the near future so that Iranian pilgrims could also travel to Syria through Iraq. The Iraqi side also expressed his country’s readiness to prepare the border routes. Meanwhile, the Syrian side has already announced its readiness to take part in the project,” Baqeri said.

He further said that he and his Iraqi counterpart have discussed air defense cooperation between the two neighbors.

“We sense some air threats from our western borders. To cope with any potential attack, we feel that Iran and Iraq should establish air defense cooperation”, he added.

The brigadier general also referred to the presence of American forces in Iraq and said the Iraqi officials have ensured the Islamic Republic that they won’t participate in the US sanctions against Iran.

“So far, they have had good cooperation with Iran and the Iraqi commander ensured that his country would have more controls over US forces. He maintained that the US forces are stationed in Iraq for only training purposes,” Major General Baqeri said.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

President Hassan Rouhani has called for Iran and neighbouring Iraq to expand their gas and electricity dealings and boost bilateral trade to $20 billion, state TV reported, despite difficulties caused by US sanctions against Tehran.

“The plans to export electricity and gas and hopefully oil continue and we are ready to expand these contacts not only for the two countries but also for other countries in the region,” Rouhani said after a meeting with visiting Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, in remarks carried by state television.

In March, the United States granted Iraq a 90-day waiver exempting it from sanctions to buy energy from Iran, the latest extension allowing Baghdad to keep purchasing electricity from its neighbour.

“We hope that our plans to expand trade volume to $20 billion will be realised within the news few months or years,” Rouhani said. Iranian media reports have put the current level of trade at about $12 billion.

Rouhani expressed hope that work on building a railway linking the two countries, would begin within the next few months.

The railway project was part of deals reached during Rouhani’s March visit to Baghdad, meant to underline that Tehran still plays a dominant role in Iraq despite US efforts to isolate Iran.

Iran and Iraq fought a devastating 1980-88 war but the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq that ousted Saddam Hussein prompted a long Sunni Islamist insurgency during which Iran’s regional sway rose at the expense of the United States.

Iraq on Saturday closed its Sheeb border crossing with Iran to travellers and trade until further notice, Iraqi security sources said, as flooding continues to submerge villages in southwestern Iran.

US President Donald Trump reimposed sanctions on Iran’s energy exports in November, citing its nuclear programme and meddling in the Middle East, but has granted waivers to several buyers to meet consumer energy needs.

Iraq relies heavily on Iranian gas to feed its power stations, importing roughly 1.5 billion standard cubic feet per day via pipelines in the south and east.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

Iraq on Monday began issuing entry visa for Iranians free of charge in a reciprocal move under a deal reached three weeks ago.

As of Monday, Iranians travelling to Iraq could obtain visa free of charge.

The Iraqi cabinet of ministers said the decision that took effect on April 1 has been made as a reciprocal move which had been agreed upon during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s recent visit to Iraq.

After the conclusion of five agreements between Tehran and Baghdad on March 12, President Rouhani said the two Muslim neighbors have agreed to lift visa requirements for the citizens of both nations, including pilgrims and tourists.

“The Iraqi side currently prefers the visa regime, but there is no payment for a visa, which is a step forward in the process of facilitating the relations between the two nations,” the Iranian president has said in a landmark visit to Iraq.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi said he hopes the United States will keep waiving sanctions on energy imports from neighboring Iran, noting that the Arab country will need to purchase electricity from the Islamic Republic for three years.

In November last year, Washington granted a 45-day waiver on electricity to the Arab country and extended it by 90 days in December after US President Donald Trump’s administration reimposed sanctions on Iran in May, following walking out of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Earlier this month, the US State Department extended the 90-day waiver for the second time to let Iraq continue energy imports from Iran. The original exemption granted in December expired on March 19.

“Hopefully this waiver will be extended until Iraq can stand on its feet economically,” said Halbusi at the US Institute of Peace on a visit to Washington, where he met senior officials, including Vice President Mike Pence.

Iraq is the biggest importer of electricity from Iran. It needs more than 23,000 megawatts of electricity to meet its domestic demand but years of war following the 2003 US invasion have left its power infrastructure in tatters and a deficit of some 7,000 megawatts.

“After these three years, maybe we can see Iraq as economically independent and we won’t need to import power or electricity from a foreign country. Maybe we can address this issue after three years,” he added, Press TV reported.

At a press conference held after his speech, Halbusi warned Washington of the negative effect of “any hasty, uncalculated step to adopt policies and procedures against countries in this region.”

The electricity shortfall in the war-torn country is especially acute in the sweltering summers, which led to violent protests in Basra in September and turned into a national crisis.

Iraq’s electricity demand is expected to increase again this summer and any cuts in Iranian supplies are set to trigger more protests and reignite unrest, destabilizing the Arab country.

In addition to natural gas and electricity, Iraq imports a wide range of goods from Iran including food, agricultural products, home appliances, and air conditioners.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Will Iraq lose its benefits from Shatt al-Arab River to Iran?

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited Baghdad March 11 to endorse the two countries’ renewed commitment to the 1975 Algiers Agreement regarding the shared border of the Shatt al-Arab River. The agreement has sat idle for decades, as Iraq has attempted to evade what it sees as unfair terms.

However, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi last week signed a number of economic accords with the Iranian president that address the following issues: entry visas for citizens of both countries, raising the value of trade exchange, railway connections and demarcation of the water borders as per the Algiers Agreement, which was first signed when the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was in power and Saddam Hussein was vice president.

But the recommitment to the agreement has sparked fears among media commentators, water resource specialists and political factions in Iraq that the country will lose out on benefits from the Shatt al-Arab.

Click here to read the full story.

The chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission hailed an agreement to ease visa restrictions between the Islamic Republic and Iraq as a major achievement of President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to the Arab country.

“The president’s visit to Iraq after the withdrawal of Daesh (ISIS or ISIL) from the country and the elimination of the terrorist group is important because it can develop investments and strategic relations between Tehran and Baghdad,” Heshmatollah Falahat Pishe told Tasnim.

He further emphasized that the visit is also important because Iraq can play a major role in countering the sanctions imposed by the US against Iran.

The senior lawmaker also referred to the easing of visa restrictions between Iran and Iraq as one of the most important achievements of Rouhani’s visit to Iraq, the senior lawmaker added.

Heading a high-ranking delegation, Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on Monday at the official invitation of the Iraqi government. It is Rouhani’s first official visit to Iraq during his tenure.

Iran and Iraq enjoy cordial political, security and cultural ties but due to some internal and regional problems including Daesh terrorism in Iraq, they have not been able to increase their trade volume.

Iran’s main exports to the neighboring country include agro products, foodstuff and fruits such as watermelon, tomato and cucumber, which account for 37% of the total exports.

Other Iranian exports to Iraq include canned food, tomato paste, chicken, egg, meat, construction materials (mainly rebar, tiles and ceramics), steel and evaporative cooler.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)