Given Iraq and Iran’s growing trade ties and other relations, Iraqi President Fuad Masum sees it hard for Baghdad companies to adhere to US sanctions on Tehran because it could react against Iraq.
“The situation in Iraq, the nature of its relations with Iran and large mutual interests will make it difficult for Iraq to comply with these decisions,” Masum told Alhurra TV.
Masum, a Kurd whose position is largely ceremonial, is still the head of state for a country that has seen a growing Iranian presence in most sectors over the past decade.
“Regarding current conflicts, we should not support one side against the other because creating massive pressure on Iran might be followed by Iranian reaction,” cautioned Masum.
US President Donald Trump’s administration implemented economic sanctions on Tuesday targeting Iran’s trading sector. They are the first round of sanctions since the United States pulled out of the nuclear deal in May.
Masum sees the sanctions affecting more than just Iran, but much of the Middle East.
“This will affect the situation in Iraq and other countries which border with Iran,” he said.
The government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, propped up by the United States and its allies, has sought to maintain a balance in Iraq, where the once marginalized Shiite majority population now rules over Sunnis.
Abadi, whose list finished third in the parliamentary election on May 12, faces the difficulty of balancing Iran’s Shiite influence and the mostly Gulf State Sunni influence at a time when US sanctions seemingly force Baghdad to choose.
Shiite politicians have talked of majoritarianism, a concept rejected by Sunni blocs and most Kurdistani parties.
Protests, mostly centering on jobs, have rocked Iraq’s mostly-Shiite southern cities since July 9. Iran has faced its own protests since July 31 — demonstrations that have spread to several cities and forced MPs to summon Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to parliament for a possible vote of confidence.