BEIRUT, LEBANON (12:00 A.M.) – According to a new report, there are diplomatic efforts made in secret by Tehran to change its policies towards Iraq after the assassination of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani during a U.S. raid near Baghdad International Airport.
Citing unnamed sources, Reuters reported that the goal of the new methods pursued by Iran is to break the political deadlock in Baghdad, and to accelerate the departure of nearly 5,000 US soldiers from Iraq, according to three senior Iranian officials involved in the process.
“Sometimes you should take a step back, monitor and plan based on the facts on the ground,” said a senior Iranian official, who asked not to be named.
He added: “We want the Americans to leave the region. If there is chaos in Iraq … the Americans will use it as an excuse to extend their stay.”
According to the report, since the killing of Soleimani, Iranian officials had held “serious talks” with Iraqi President Barham Saleh for the first time in years to build confidence and pressed Iran’s allies inside Iraq to reach a compromise to end the impasse that prevented the formation of a stable government.
However, some Iraqi sources indicated that the officials who come to Iraq also have links with the Revolutionary Guards, and they have years of experience in dealing with Iraqi affairs and significant influence with many political and armed factions.
A senior Iraqi official said that President Saleh opposed the preferred candidates for parties allied to Iran to succeed Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned from the Iraqi government last November against the backdrop of protests, as they are highly divisive for Sunni Arabs and Kurds.
Last March, the Secretary of the Iranian National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, made an official visit to Baghdad, during which he met Barham Saleh at the Presidential Palace.
Reuters quoted another official as saying, “After Shamkhani’s visit, things went smoothly.” He added: “Iran has shown that it is ready to work with some respect for Iraqi sovereignty, and is ready to let Iraq choose its government.”
Hours before the Iraqi parliament voted on the new government headed by Mustafa al-Kazimi, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official and the current Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjid, persuaded the leaders of political parties and paramilitary factions to support al-Kazemi.
Reuters quoted an official of an armed faction close to the “Badr Organization” in Iraq as saying, “The message of the Iranian delegation was clear … Al-Kazemi is the only option left to maintain some stability in Iraq and save face.”
A Western official said that Tehran appeared to want to reduce military tension with the United States “at the moment”, but there is no evidence of a comprehensive calm in the region.