Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein concluded on Sunday a visit to Tehran where he held talks with Iranian officials on bilateral relations and the United States’ threat to close its embassy in Baghdad.
Deputy chief of the Iranian armed forces, Brigadier Ghadir Nezami, was also in Baghdad where he was discussing the same issues with Iraqi officials.
The visits took place in wake of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning Iraqi officials that Washington may close its embassy in Baghdad should it continue to come under rocket attacks by pro-Iran factions.
Informed Iraqi sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Hussein relayed to the Iranians the American threat, asking them to wield their influence and ease tensions in Iraq.
The Iraqi request was both “friendly and clear” and the Iranians expressed their understanding to Hussein even though Tehran has been firm in declaring that it will not back down from seeking to avenge the killing of Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani.
The top general was killed by an American drone strike near Baghdad airport in January.
As Hussein made his request for calm, rocket attacks against the Green Zone in Baghdad – home to various diplomatic missions – ceased for a fifth straight day.
In Baghdad, Nezami met with Defense Minister Juma Anad Saadoun, who said talks focused on joint military cooperation.
Nezami, for his part, was understood to be in Iraq to “inform parties close to Iran to exert efforts to restore calm and exercise restraint.” This message was not announced by Nezami, but by Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani during his talks with the Iraqi foreign minister in Tehran.
In a tweet, the Iranian official said talks with Hussein focused on preserving the security and stability of Iraq, adding that “supporting the orders of the religious authority was among the constants of Iranian policy in Iraq.”
Moreover, he said that “expelling foreign forces from Iraq” was the lightest of punishments for the killing of Soleimani.