Iraq PM defends stance on U.S. sanctions against Iran

Kurdish PDKI members on patrol near the Iran Iraq border last year

Referring to his next week visit to Ankara, the Iraqi premier said Iraq would not allow any attack from its territory on Turkey.

"Our message [in the previous press briefing] was clear but maybe misunderstood, but some people have been trying to fabricate and mislead the statement", Abadi said.

The US and Iran are Iraq's two biggest allies and the sanctions put Abadi's outgoing government in a hard position.

According to Iraqi political sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, Iran initially agreed to the visit but changed its mind because it was unhappy about Abadi's remarks. "We will not interact with them or support them, but we will abide by them", he added.

According to a senior Iraqi official this was in direct response to Mr al-Abadi's earlier suggestion that Iraq would obey United States sanctions.

Mr Al Abadi's statement will likely cause more damage to himself than Iran as he is now in the process of trying to form a government, Amir Handjani, senior resident fellow at The Atlantic Council told The National.

Hudaithi pointed out that the sanctions imposed on Iran will affect remittance and transactions in United States dollars.

"While there are sanctions on Iran, it will be hard to preserve the trade relations [with Iran]", Iraqi government spokesman Saad al-Hadithi said. "It's a disloyal attitude towards the honest position of Iran and the blood of the martyrs this country has spilt to defend the land of Iraq" against jihadists, said Moujtaba al-Hussein.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the main factions of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), issued a statement, saying it "regrets the Prime Minister's position on USA sanctions against Iran".

The Badr Organization, the main faction of PMF, also called for the Iraqi government to stand with Iran as an advocate and supporter.

Iraq is the second largest importer of Iranian products, aside from fuel, with total imports reaching about $6 billion a year ago.

Iraq is a key market for Iranian products, and the two countries enjoyed $12bn trade volume between April 2017 and March 2018 in areas of oil, gas, religious tourism, and engineering services.

Under the 2015 deal, the United States agreed to lift the crippling economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a halt to Iran's controversial nuclear program and the access of global inspectors to relevant facilities.

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