Iran struggles to enhance economic ties with Iraq despite US sanctions



Two days after the Iranian foreign minister passed through Iraq, he decided to encourage Iraqi businessmen to import Iranian products by encouraging them to travel with less obstacles to Iran, a step which probably aims at circumventing the US sanctions imposed on Iran in late 2018.

Iranian Foreign Ministerannounced cancelling visas for “Iraqi traders” travelling to Iran.

During the Iraqi-Iranian economic conference held on Monday, which was attended by more than 100 Iraqi and Iranian businessmen, Zarif said that his country decided to finally remove any obstacles in the face of Iraqi traders.

Work visas to Iranians halted

The number of Iranians working in Iraq has dropped from 20,000 to 5,000 since Baghdad stopped issuing work visas for Iranian citizens, said the Governor General of Kurdistan province in western Iran.

Bahman Moradnia did not elaborate on the reasons behind Iraq’s decision to stop issuing work visas for Iranians, Radio Farda reported earlier in January.

Meanwhile, Moradnia said that the lack of transport infrastructure, including air routes, is the most important hurdle in the way of business and trade between Iran’s Kurdistan and the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

Earlier, the chairman of Iranian parliament’s influential Commission of National Security and Foreign Policy, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, had cautioned against Iran losing its economic position in Iraq and being replaced by Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

Iraq is the second biggest market for Iranian exports and Iran’s ambassador in November had said that trade can reach $22 billion annually in the future.

US sanctions, Pompeo’s messages

Relations between Tehran and Washington are highly fraught after the decision in May by US President Donald Trump to withdraw from a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers and to reimpose sanctions, including on Iran’s oil sector.

Speaking in Qatar on Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the aims of the summit will include changing the “behavior” of Iran, which Washington accuses of destabilizing the region and supporting terrorism.

“We will gather around a number of different topics,” Pompeo told reporters in Doha, adding that fighting ISIS is among them, in addition to getting Iran “to behave like a normal nation.”

A few days after Pompeo concluded his recent visit in Iraq, the Economist newspaper revealed that the US seeks to conclude more contracts and oil deals with Iraq.

During the visit, Pompeo stressed the independence of Iraq in the field of energy. His remarks were seen by Iraqi officials as a clear message to stop buying Iranian gas and start contracting with US oil companies to develop gas fields in the country, the Economist said in a report.

Leading US energy companies, such as Chevron, are negotiating directly with the Iraqi Oil Ministry to get huge concession agreements, the report said. Moreover, Exxon Mobil is negotiating to establish deals to increase the volume of oil exports and build a major desalination plant.


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