Top diplomats from neighboring Iran and Iraq have agreed to meet soon amid a series of regional developments, including two back-to-back attacks against US troops stationed on either side of Iraq’s border with Syria.
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdullahian and Iraqi Foreign Minister Fouad Hussein spoke via telephone, according to statements published by both sides on Friday.
The Iranian Foreign Ministry said the two people discussed “issues of mutual interest, including bilateral relations, regional development and the Vienna Dialogue”, where Tehran called for Washington’s return to the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by then-President Donald Trump in 2018. Of.
Amir-Abdullahian also raised the on-going war in Eastern Europe, which he emphasized “the need to focus on dialogue and diplomatic solutions to the crisis in Ukraine and that addressing the root causes of the current crisis is the key to establishment”. Peace and lasting stability in the Eurasian region.”
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry issued a similar readout referring to these topics as well as “ways to strengthen bilateral ties”. The Iraqi statement said that “the two sides stressed the need to meet at the earliest to discuss developments in the region” and “the need for a meeting in the coming days”.
The remarks came after it emerged on Thursday that the US military shot down two drones near Ain al-Assad Air Base in Iraq’s western al-Anbar province. In a statement, the US-led Coalition Against the Islamic State Terrorist Group (ISIS), a common enemy to all sides, said that “US air defense systems employ an armed unmanned aerial system” at about 1 in the military. Shot down near the establishment. 46 a.m.” Friday local time.
No injuries or damages were reported, the statement said.
Exactly 24 hours earlier, at “1:09 AM, April 7”, however, US-led coalition forces in the so-called Green Village in eastern Syria’s Deir Azor province received “2 rounds of indirect fire affecting two support buildings. ” As a result, “four US soldiers are being evaluated for minor injuries and possible traumatic brain injuries.”
The US-led coalition did not blame for the incident, but similar attacks have been blamed by the Pentagon on militias tied to Iran, which have called for the withdrawal of all US forces from the region.
Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since the US pulled out of the nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and sparked unrest in and around Iraq and the wider Persian Gulf. Is.
The situation escalated following the US killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani and his crew, including Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces deputy Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, at Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.
Since entering office after nearly a year, President Joe Biden has sought to return to the JCPOA, but the White House has demanded that Iran re-establish nuclear borders that Tehran has imposed in the face of tighter sanctions established by the Trump administration. was suspended as a result. Meanwhile, Washington has maintained economic sanctions, even as both sides say they are close to reaching an agreement in Vienna.
The Biden administration continues to face rocket attacks against US personnel in Iraq and Syria and twice as part of the “axis of resistance” in opposition to the US, Israel and ISIS, Iran-linked groups operating in both countries. attacks against. The US works in cooperation with Baghdad in Iraq but does so against the will of Damascus in Syria.
Biden announced last year that the Pentagon’s “combat” mission in Iraq would end on December 31, yet the US would continue to serve in a training and advising role, so there were about 2,500 personnel left. For Syria, where about 900 US personnel are stationed with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the northeast and rebel Maghavir al-Thawra in the southeastern desert region, the Biden administration has yet to announce any major policy changes. Is.
Speaking Tuesday at a virtual event hosted by the Wilson Center, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for the Middle East Dana Straul said the US will continue to maintain a military presence in Iraq and Syria, a campaign still primarily focused on ISIS. , but is also ready to stop it. Iran, which it called a “major source of instability in the region”.
Quoting Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, he said that “this is due not only to the dangerous nuclear progress outside the sanctions of the Iran nuclear deal or JCPOA, but also because of its continued sponsorship and cultivation of violent proxies and terrorists due to its increasingly advanced and This is due to the proliferation of lethal UAVs, its ballistic missile program and its maritime invasion and smuggling activities at sea.
“And, of course, US forces, in particular, which are based in northeastern Syria to aid the fight against ISIS through local partners, experience threats from Iran and Iran-backed proxies on a very regular basis. Huh.”