Iraq Offers to Mediate for Iran, US 05/26 11:45
Iraq offered Sunday to mediate in the crisis between its two key allies, the
United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions and as Tehran's
nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraq offered Sunday to mediate in the crisis between its two
key allies, the United States and Iran, amid escalating Middle East tensions
and as Tehran's nuclear deal with world powers steadily unravels.
Iraqi foreign minister, Mohammed al-Hakim, made the offer during a joint
news conference in Baghdad with visiting Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad
"We are trying to help and to be mediators," said al-Hakim, adding that
Baghdad "will work to reach a satisfactory solution" while stressing that Iraq
stands against unilateral steps taken by Washington.
In recent weeks, tensions between Washington and Tehran soared over America
deploying an aircraft carrier and B-52 bombers to the Persian Gulf over a
still-unexplained threat it perceives from Tehran. The U.S. also plans to send
900 additional troops to the 600 already in the Mideast and extending their
The crisis takes root in President Donald Trump's withdrawal last year of
America from the 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that capped
Iran's uranium enrichment activities in return to lifting sanctions. Washington
subsequently re-imposed sanctions on Iran, sending its economy into freefall.
Trump has argued that the deal failed to sufficiently curb Iran's ability to
develop nuclear weapons or halt its support for militias throughout the Middle
East that the U.S. says destabilize the region, as well as address the issue of
Tehran's missiles, which can reach both U.S. regional bases and Israel.
Zarif, who was been on a whirlwind diplomatic offensive to preserve the rest
of the accord, insisted that Iran "did not violate the nuclear deal" and urged
European nations to exert efforts to preserve the deal following the U.S.
Speaking about the rising tensions with the U.S., Zarif said Iran will be
able to "face the war, whether it is economic or military through steadfastness
and its forces." He also urged for a non-aggression agreement between Iran and
Arab countries in the Gulf.
The Shiite-majority Iraq has been trying to maintain a fine line as allies
Tehran and Washington descended into verbal vitriol. The country also lies on
the fault line between Shiite Iran and the mostly Sunni Arab world, led by
powerhouse Saudi Arabia, and has long been a battlefield in which the
Saudi-Iran rivalry for regional supremacy played out.
The mediation offer by al-Hakim, Iraq's foreign minister, echoed one made
Saturday by Mohamad al-Halbousi, the Iraqi parliament speaker. Al-Hakim also
expressed concern for Iran's spiraling economy.
Iranians make up the bulk of millions of Shiites from around the world who
come to Iraq every year to visit its many Shiite shrines and holy places and
their purchasing power has slumped after Trump re-imposed the sanctions.
"The sanctions against sisterly Iran are ineffective and we stand by its
side," al-Hakim said.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani suggested the Islamic Republic
could hold a referendum over its nuclear program. The official IRNA news agency
said Rouhani, who was last week publicly chastised by the country's supreme
leader, made the suggestion in a meeting with editors of major Iranian news
outlets on Saturday evening.
Rouhani said he had previously suggested a referendum to Supreme Leader
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in 2004, when Rouhani was a senior nuclear negotiator
At the time, Khamenei approved of the idea and though there was no
referendum, such a vote "can be a solution at any time," Rouhani was quoted as
A referendum could provide political cover for the Iranian government if it
chooses to increase its enrichment of uranium, prohibited under the 2015
Earlier last week, Iran said it quadrupled its uranium-enrichment production
capacity though Iranian officials made a point to stress that the uranium would
be enriched only to the 3.67% limit set under the deal, making it usable for a
power plant but far below what's needed for an atomic weapon.
Rouhani's remarks could also be seen as a defense of his stance following
the rare public chastising by the supreme leader.
Khamenei last week named Rouhani and Zarif --- relative moderates within
Iran's Shiite theocracy who had struck the nuclear deal --- as failing to
implement his orders over the accord, saying it had "numerous ambiguities and
structural weaknesses" that could damage Iran.
Khamenei, who has final say on all matters of state in Iran, did not
immediately respond to Rouhani's proposal of a referendum. The Islamic Republic
has seen only three referendums since it was established in 1979 --- one on
regime change from monarchy to Islamic republic and two on its constitution and
Also in Tehran, acting commander of the country's powerful Revolutionary
Guard said any negotiations with the U.S. would be fruitless. Gen. Ali Fadavi
said it would be like having "negotiations with Satan."