Report Says Iran Boosting Trade with Iraqi Kurds After U.S. Syria Exit

Iran to support efforts by Iraq, Kurds to resolve dispute
IRANIAN PRESIDENCY/AFP Handout

Iran has intensified efforts to boost trade with northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to bypass crippling U.S. sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic this year, Rudaw reported Friday.

“Iran has doubled efforts to increase trade volume with the Kurdistan Region and Iraq, and according to local officials, in 2018 alone Iran exported $10 billion worth of import trade with Iraq, a third of it with the Kurdistan Region. … Tehran tries to get around the US sanctions and soften the blow by increasing trade ties with other countries,” Rudaw noted.

An increase in trade translates to more foreign currency for cash-strapped Tehran, the news outlet acknowledged.

In November, U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration sanctioned Iran’s oil, banking, shipping, and other sectors – reimposing restrictions lifted by former President Barack Obama as part of the controversial 2015 Iran nuclear deal. President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran nuclear pact in May, saying that the agreement failed to restrain Tehran.

On November 5, the United States imposed sanctions on 700 Iranian targets as part of its “largest ever single day” of economic penalties against Tehran, the U.S. Treasury Department announced.

While campaigning for president, Trump vowed to take a harder line against Iran. However, some analysts, including Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), have warned that the American commander-in-chief’s decision to pull out of Syria could be a boon for Iran and its allies, namely Russia and the regime of dictator Bashar al-Assad.

The withdrawal is expected to negatively impact the Syrian Kurds who helped the U.S.-led coalition decimate the Islamic State’s (ISIS/ISIL) physical caliphate.

The Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from Syria came as Turkey was preparing to deploy its military into Syria to confront Kurdish militias that it accuses of threatening its sovereignty.

U.S. support for the Syrian Kurds has strained the ties of NATO allies Washington and Ankara.

Pentagon officials cautioned Ankara against attacking the Syrian Kurds, but now that American forces are slated to leave, some Kurdish officials are accusing the United States of abandoning them.

Iraqi Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani has come out against the U.S. decision to pull out of Syria, saying their Syrian Kurdish brethren have suffered “too much.”

In the wake of the U.S withdrawal decision on Thursday, Barzani expressed concerns about the security and future of the Syrian Kurds.

“The recent events and development in Syria, typically the condition of Kurdish nation in that country, are concerning,” Barzani declared, according to Rudaw.

“A great number of Kurdish people in Syria have been displaced. The Daesh [ISIS] terrorist attacks, unstable political situation, and other threats of previous years have harmed Syrian Kurds too much,” he said, stressing that the war against ISIS is still not over.

“I hope that the recent events and developments do not lead to violence and deteriorated war. Also, let the Kurdish people and nation in Syria no longer experience miseries,” Barzani concluded.

Syrian Kurds have expressed fear and reservations about Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, noting that such a move amounts to a “betrayal” that leaves them vulnerable to attacks by Turkey and warning that it would lead to a resurgence of ISIS.

In November, the Pentagon’s office of the inspector general (OIG) conceded that although ISIS has suffered devastating losses in Iraq and Syria, the group remains a threat.

“Barzani, as head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), has had an antagonistic relationship with the ruling Kurdish party in northern Syria,” Rudaw noted. “He supports the political opposition in [Syria’s Kurdish region of] Rojava and has condemned some policies of the ruling administration across the border.”

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