TEHRAN (Dispatches) -- Iran wants to hold joint military exercises with Iraq, an Iranian news website reported on Monday, potentially increasing the alliance and link between Baghdad and Tehran.
It comes as an Iranian diplomat visited Mosul and also after a commander of Iran’s air defenses indicated Tehran could work with Baghdad on its air defense requirements. Joint military exercises would be a major step in the alliance between the two countries.
The Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA) reported on Monday that Iran Land Forces Commander Kiumars Heydari suggested joint exercises in a meeting with Iraqi Deputy Commander of the Army Maj.-Gen. Tariq Abbas Ibrahim.
Iran and Iraq were enemies when Saddam Hussein’s regime was in charge, but after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, the countries have grown closer.
Baghdad was angered when U.S. President Donald Trump indicated that US forces might use Iraq to "watch” Iran.
New electricity agreements were signed between Iraq and Iran in February, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani made a strategic trip to Iraq in March in which he signed 22 agreements to boost ties. Rail lines between the two countries would be constructed, oil infrastructure connected and Iran and Iraq would be more closely integrated, the agreements said.
Now Iran appears to be taking things to the next level. Photos posted online showed that an Iranian diplomat visited Mosul this week. Morteza Ebadi, the Iranian consul-general in Erbil, has sought to increase ties with northern Iraq. Rudaw News reported in May that he said economic trade between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iran could increase from $4 billion to $5 billion this year.
Mosul, one of Iraq’s largest cities, is in Nineveh Province next to the KRG.
At the same time, a commander of Iranian air defenses indicated that the two countries could cooperate. This comes in the wake of Iran shooting down a U.S. drone.
Alireza Sabahifar, an Iranian officer in charge of air defenses, met with the Iraqi Deputy Commander of the Army Tariq Abbas Ibrahim on Sunday.
He suggested that Iran and Iraq "consolidate Islamic power in the region,” ISNA reported. Then Iran said it was ready to create an expert committee to look at joint air defenses.
In subsequent meetings, according to ISNA’s report, the Iranians and Iraqis arranged for joint drills.
"The ground forces are at the highest level of combat readiness and are ready to transfer experiences in the field to the Iraqi army,” Heydari said.
He discussed the unbreakable spiritual connection of the countries. Most of the discussion appeared to center around shared religious devotion, as opposed to tactics, strategy and divisions. Iraq thanked Iran for its support during the war against Daesh and indicated that assistance might be welcomed in the fields of battlefield medical knowledge and snipers.
Heydari said the men discussed the need for Iran and Iraq to be closely connected in "political, defense, economic and cultural fields. Inshallah, these new ties and ideas will happen.” They also discussed cooperation in training, artillery and airborne assault.