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IranIraq ties beyond diplomatic compliments, political claims

Baghdad, and Iraq, despite numerous challenges, made all efforts to broaden their relations over the past year, culminated with the visit to the country in March by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

The visit was made with a prior announcement a few months earlier describing it as a new turning point in the two countries' bilateral relations. It was also called a historic visit with comprehensive achievements for both Iran and Iraq.

President Rouhani's threeday visit to Iraq followed several other highprofile visits by Iranian officials. The country's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif visited Iraq in January. In the same month, Iranian Defense Minister Brigadier General Amir Hatami, Minister of Oil Bijan Zangeneh, and two weeks earlier, Reza Ardakanian, Iran's Minister of Energy, visited the country upon official invitations.

Iraqi President Barham Salih a few weeks after the parliamentary elections made his first official foreign trip after inauguration by visiting Tehran in May 2018.

Salih acknowledged that Iraq saw relations with Iran strategic, emphasizing that the ties would not be affected by any issue. The Iraqi president also during the visit unveiled the idea of new regional system based on economy and security.

The busy year demonstrated the importance of political and economic relations for the two neighboring countries. Iraq, along with China, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Afghanistan and Turkey, was among the top five destinations for Iran's exported commodities that receive a total 69 percent of the Iran's exports.

The ties between the two countries, though, have not been limited to politics and economy. Over the past year, several cultural events, including book fairs and art exhibitions, were held with major presence of Iranian participants.

Peopletopeople diplomacy between Iran and Iraq has always been strengthened through tourism. The diplomacy is expected to get boosted through a mutual freevisa agreement being implemented April 1. Various Iraqi cities host millions of Iranian religious tourists every year, with the climax on the occasion of Arbaeen which marks the fortieth day of the death of Shia Muslims' third Imam. Iraq as a Shia majority country is also a main source of tourism income to Iran as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come to Iran for visiting the holy shrines and for medical purposes.

The two countries with some 1.5 km shared border also have common security interests. Iraq benefitted from Iran's military advisory in fighting terrorism over the three years the country was struggling with Daesh (ISIS) terrorists.

In the post war era, too, Baghdad has affirmed that Iran should play a major role in reconstruction of Iraq after the terrorist group was rooted up in the country in 2017.

Experts believe that IranIraq relations in terms of diversity and depth can be one of the best role models for other countries in the region; a type of relations that will benefit others as well as the two nations.

Source: Islamic Republic News Agency IRNA

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