Iran’s top security official in Baghdad as border security agreement is signed

Ali Shamkhani's visit to Iraq follows Tehran's deal with Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations

Ali Shamkhani in Tehran in June 2021. He was in the UAE last week and has travelled to Iraq to discuss matters of mutual concern with Baghdad. AP
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Iraq and Iran on Sunday signed an agreement to improve security co-operation between the two neighbouring countries, focusing mainly on protecting the borders, according to a statement issued by the Iraqi Prime Minister's office.

Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani, who flew to Iraq's capital Baghdad earlier on Sunday, signed the accord with his Iraqi counterpart National Security Adviser Qassim Al Araji in the presence of Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani, the statement said.

The headquarters of Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, and the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, KDPI, are in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

They have recently been the targets of almost daily cross-border attacks by Turkey and Iran.

Iran and Turkey accuse the groups of activities in Iraqi territory to destabilise their security by either launching attacks or fuelling unrest.

Under pressure from Ankara and Tehran, Iraq late last year sent Border Guard units to its borders with the two countries in an effort to stop continuous attacks by dissident Kurdish groups.

During his meeting with Mr Shamkhani, Mr Al Sudani “stressed on Iraq's firm stance that rejects using Iraqi territories as launching pad for aggressions against neighbouring countries,” said the statement.

Mr Al Sudani also underlined his “firm rejection of letting Iraqi territories be a harbour for armed groups”.

While on his way to Baghdad, Mr Shamkhani visited a memorial to Maj Gen Qassem Suleimani on the airport road. The former commander of Quds Force, a division of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis were assassinated in a US drone attack in January 2020.

Shortly after he left Tehran for Baghdad, Mr Shamkhani's office said both countries discussed economic and security issues. The head of Iran’s central bank and senior diplomats accompanied Mr Shamkhani.

The visit by Mr Shamkhani came days after Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by China.

On Thursday, Mr Shamkhani visited the UAE and met President Sheikh Mohammed and other senior officials to discuss “opportunities for enhancing co-operation between the two countries,” UAE’s official Wam news agency reported.

Mr Shamkhani said his visit was a “meaningful beginning for the two countries to enter a new stage of political, economic and security relations,” Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Riyadh had severed ties with Tehran in 2016 after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in the Iranian capital following the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia.

Beginning in 2021, Baghdad hosted several rounds of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran on the normalisation of relations.

Oman also played a role in repairing those relations.

This month, Riyadh and Tehran's deal to restore diplomatic relations and to re-open embassies brought hopes of reducing tensions in the region, mainly in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia has been at war with the Iran-aligned Houthi militia since 2015.

That conflict has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.

Updated: March 19, 2023, 2:14 PM