Rouhani in Baghdad seeks outlets against US sanctions

Al-Monitor | : Iranian President Hassan Rouhani arrived in Baghdad on March 11 amid his government’s efforts to expand ties with Iraq to reduce the impact of US sanction on Iran’s economy. Prior to departing Tehran, Rouhani remarked, “[Iran’s ties with Iraq] cannot be compared to Iraq’s relations with an occupying country like America, which is hated in the region.” The visit is Rouhani’s first one to Baghdad since taking office in 2013.

The Iranian leader’s three days in Iraq will include his signing a series of agreements on energy, transport, agriculture, industry and health as well as meetings with Iraqi officials. In preparation, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif arrived in Baghdad the day before Rouhani. Iran aims to boost annual trade with its neighbor from $12 billion to $20 billion to help offset US sanctions, which are strangling its economy.

While meeting with Rouhani, President Barham Salih said, “Iraq is lucky to be a neighbor with Iran, as well as being a neighbor with Turkey and being connected to the Arab world at the same time.” He added, “We hope that Iraq can become a bridge between the region’s nations based on mutual respect and common interests.”

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