Tehran and Baghdad have agreed to bolster bilateral “aerial defence cooperation” to specifically fend off challenges facing their air spaces, Mohammad Baqeri, chairman of the Chiefs of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, told reporters on Sunday.
Bageri made the announcement after meeting with Iraqi counterpart Othman al-Ghanimi in Tehran earlier in the day.
The top Iranian commander stressed that the talks focused on “the integrated defence of Iran and Iraq’s skies, because we might sense threats coming from the direction of [our] western borders”.
Baqeri added that the two sides also agreed on possible joint military exercises, with the relevant agreements expected to be clinched during Ghanimi’s next visit.
Baqeri also quoted the Iraqi commander as promising that Baghdad would continue to keep an eagle eye on the US’ military presence in Iraqi territory – a statement that came a day after Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei urged Baghdad to ensure US troops leave Iraq “as soon as possible”.
Earlier, the Foreign Policy magazine reported, citing US officials, that the administration of President Donald Trump is considering the possibility of cutting diplomatic personnel in Afghanistan and Iraq as soon as this year or in 2020.
During a surprise visit to Iraq late last year, President Donald Trump said that he has “no plans at all” to remove US troops from the Middle Eastern country, stressing his interest in wanting more soldiers deployed there from Syria.
Referring to the huge sums of money that are being spent on the US military base in Iraq in an interview with the CBS, Trump made clear that one of the reasons he wants to keep it is “to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem”.
20 March 2019 marked the 16th anniversary of the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US-led invasion of Iraq which started in 2003 as part of a declared war against international terrorism. In 2009, US troops were withdrawn before being redeployed in 2014, when the US-led coalition started to launch strikes on Daesh targets following the terror group's meteoric rise.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State), a terrorist group banned in Russia and a number of other countries