Iraq signed an agreement with Iran Sunday in an effort to increase coordination in fighting “terrorism and extremism,” despite the fact Iran is still considered the world’s top terror sponsor.
Iraqi Defense Minister Erfan Mahmoud al-Hayali signed the accord with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan in Tehran, the Iranian capital, while on a visit. The multifaceted agreement provides for increased military cooperation, border security, logistics and other forms of support, according to the Tasnim news, a pro-regime outlet. Dehghan told reporters after the signing that they hoped the agreement would provide for deeper cooperation between their respective countries.
Iraq’s decision to further its partnership with Iran against terrorism comes after CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned in June that Iran is still considered the world’s foremost terror sponsor.
“Whether it’s the influence they have over the government in Baghdad, whether it’s the increasing strength of Hezbollah and Lebanon, their work alongside the Houthis in Iran, the Iraqi Shias that are fighting along now the border in Syria — certainly the Shia forces that are engaged in Syria. Iran is everywhere throughout the Middle East,” said Pompeo during an interview with MSNBC.
Iraq is technically a U.S. ally, but it is Iran who has used the Islamic State threat as a channel to secure its influence in Baghdad. Iran is an active sponsor of the Popular Mobilization Units, which are made up of mostly Shiite Muslims who harbor a disdain for the Sunni ISIS terrorists.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, the country’s radical paramilitary arm, has acted as a major support system for Iraq in its fight against ISIS, so much so that the infamous IRGC leader Qassem Soleimani was seen offering his support on the Iraqi battlefield. Iran’s influence even extends at the highest levels of the Iraqi government.
The new joint accord comes just weeks after the Iraqi Security Forces recaptured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city and a former major hub for ISIS operations. Soleimani was quick point to the PMUs as the major reason for the Mosul victory. The U.S., in comparison, has a much lighter footprint on the ground in Iraq, making it difficult to counter Iran’s growing influence.
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