Iraqi President Hails Tehran's Timely Support

Fuad MasumFuad Masum

Iraqi President Fuad Masum hailed Iran for extending effective support to the Arab country in its fight against terrorism.  

In an interview with Tasnim News Agency in Baghdad published on Sunday, Masum expressed his views on a range of issues, including ties with Iran and the future of Iraqi armed forces after the ultimate victory over the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group, which invaded Iraq in summer 2014.

Asked about the activities of various political groups in Iraq and their role in the government, Masum said, "We regard compromise between the Iraqi political currents as a favorable option … I personally believe that national unity in Iraq should be prioritized in forming the future government."

The president, himself a Kurd, underlined that "maintaining the country's independence and territorial integrity is of paramount importance and must be observed by everybody under all conditions".

Turning to the war against terrorist groups and plans after the defeat of IS, Masum highlighted the need for a mechanism to protect the country against various incidents in the post-IS era, stressing that "Daesh [an Arabic acronym for IS] will not be destroyed only with a military defeat, as its secret cells inspired by the same terrorist ideologies will remain in Iraq".

"We will need an appropriate security plan inside the country, and at the same time regional and international cooperation with other countries," he emphasized.

Commenting on Tehran-Baghdad relations, the Iraqi president said ties between the two neighbors have gone beyond ordinary political relations and Iraq has taken advantage of these ties to achieve its objectives. 

"We have always benefited from our ties with Tehran, either during our struggles against Saddam's dictatorship or after 2003," he said.

"We see no obstacle to Iraq becoming a major trade market for Iran, and as I said before, it is important for us to make use of Iran's economic capabilities and experience."

On Arab League and Iraq's position in the organization, the president said, "We want the league to be sustained, but believe that its charter needs a revision, because there are fundamental disagreements among its members, and the Arab League has failed to build strong ties among its members."

Masum pointed to plans to increase the efficiency of Hashd al-Shaabi forces (Popular Mobilization Units), arguing that "Hashd al-Shaabi forces should be given more attention".

"There are a number of forces that are not officially members of Hashd al-Shaabi and are less committed to the law; this issue needs more attention. Hashd al-Shaabi has been a basic force in the fight against terrorists and has served Iraq a lot, but at the same time, there needs to be a special military organization of its forces to prevent the membership of other people in its body, so that the image of its real forces would not be harmed," he said.

"Without Hashd al-Shaabi, Daesh could have reached Karbala and even Baghdad," he added.

The Iraqi president praised the prominent role of the commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps' Quds Force Major General Qasem Soleimani in Iraq.

"We have been in need of these [Iranian] supports and their capabilities and expertise, which have had an influential role in our victories in the war against Daesh," he said. 

"The presence of General Soleimani is also in line with plans for the presence of foreign military advisors in Iraq. The US and other European countries have also military advisors in Iraq, so one cannot say that Iranian military advisors are not allowed in Iraq. This is a common issue in our view and Iran has the same rights as the other countries."

Masum stressed that the Iranian nation "is a friend and brother nation".

"We have a lot in common with our brothers in Iran. Cultural commonalities and hundreds of kilometers of common border necessitate taking more important steps to strengthen Baghdad-Tehran relations," he concluded.

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