A senior Iranian military official has hailed an agreement to increase defense cooperation with Iraq, claiming that the two nations must guard against extremists allegedly being sent into the region by Washington.
Tehran and Baghdad have drafted a plan that calls for joint military drills and cooperation between their defense industries, as well as strengthening border security. The document will be finalized and formally signed in the near future, according to Iranian state media.
Iraqi Defense Minister Juma Anad Saadoun, accompanied by senior Iraqi commanders, traveled to Tehran to iron out the deal.
The agreement was applauded by Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces Major General Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, the country’s most senior military official, who said that it would lead to greater stability and security in both nations.
Claiming that Iraq has “faced several conspiracies in recent years,” the Iranian general accused the United States of seeking to “redeploy terrorists in the region,” making closer cooperation between the two neighbors a necessity.
Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) expressed similar support for bolstering cooperation with Iraq. According to Iranian media reports, Shamkhani claimed that the United States aims to create conflicts in the region, and said Iran and Iraq must remain diligent against Washington’s “sinister plot.” He said that the fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) showed that any security crisis could be overcome through joint cooperation.
The United States has repeatedly accused Iran of being a leading state sponsor of terrorism, but Tehran insists that Washington is actually the primary source of violent extremism.
Earlier this week, the New York Times published a story claiming that Al-Qaeda’s second-in-command was killed in Iran in August by Israeli assassins. Iran’s foreign ministry dismissed the story, describing it as “false information” leaked to the media “in order to avoid responsibility for the criminal activities of this group and other terrorist groups in the region.”
Both Iran and Iraq accused Washington of destabilizing the region after Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US drone strike in Baghdad in January. The strike also killed members of an Iraqi militia, triggering accusations that Washington had betrayed its ally in the fight against Islamic State. Iraq’s parliament passed a non-binding resolution to expel all American forces from the country, while Iran launched missile strikes against several military installations in Iraq that hosted US troops.
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