DUBAI: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has arrived in Baghdad, Iraq's government said on Monday, in an official visit aimed at shoring up Tehran's influence in Iraq and expanding trade ties.
With the visit, Iran aims to send a strong message that it
retains its influence in much of the region despite US sanctions.
“We are very much interested to expand our ties with Iraq, particularly our transport cooperation,” Rouhani said at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport. “We have important projects that will be discussed during this visit.”
During the three-day visit a series of agreements will be signed in fields such as energy, transport, agriculture, industry and health Iran’s state news agency IRNA said.
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“Iraq is another channel for Iran to bypass America’s unjust sanctions imposed on Iran. This trip will provide opportunities for Iran’s economy,” a senior Iranian official, who is accompanying Rouhani, told Reuters.
The parlous state of Iran’s economy since US President Donald Trump’s decision last May to pull out of a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six major powers has pushed the country’s leaders to try to expand trade ties with neighbours.
The agreement lifted in 2016 sanctions that had been imposed by the United States, European Union and United Nations in return for Iran’s curbs on its sensitive nuclear program.
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The Trump administration, which said the accord was too generous and failed to rein in Iran’s ballistic missile program and its involvement in regional conflicts such as Syria and Yemen, reimposed sanctions on Tehran.
Other signatories to the deal have been trying to salvage the pact after the US exit, but US sanctions have largely scared off European companies from doing business with Iran.
The Europeans have promised to help firms do business with Iran as long as it abides by the deal. Iran has itself threatened to pull out of the 2015 deal unless EU powers demonstrably protect its economic benefits.