Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani met Iran’s new president, Ebrahim Raisi, in Tehran on Friday morning.

Barzani attended Raisi’s swearing-in ceremony the day before, leading a Kurdish delegation that includes the Ministers of Endowment and Religious Affairs, Culture and Youth, and Labor and Social Affairs.

Barzani also met with the speaker of Iran’s parliament, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, on Friday. They were joined by Kurdistan Parliament speaker Rewaz Faiq.

Erbil and Tehran enjoy good relations in some fields, but there are limits, according to Zubair Rasul, an expert in political science and regional relations.

Kurdistan Region’s “relations with regional countries, especially with Turkey and Iran, have different specializations, but they are limited. No matter how good they are, they have a limit,” Rasul told Rudaw’s Fuad Raheem.

When Barzani arrived in Tehran on Thursday, the flag of the Kurdistan Region was raised at the airport. The Iraqi flag was noticeably absent. This gesture was done with specific reasoning, according to Rasul. There are “many messages that they want to deliver to other countries,” such as Iran’s archrivals the United States and Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), he said.

“If the Kurdistan Region is not friends with Iran, that might be a threat to Iran,” he said, explaining that if the Kurdistan Region cannot find the security and alliances it needs from its neighbours, then the US and other forces may step in.

“Iran wants to be sure that the Kurdistan Region will not be a source of attacks or a threat to Iran, whether its political, security or economic,” said Rasul.

Erbil has close ties with the US and American forces are based in the Kurdistan Region, and it has been accused of allowing Israeli intelligence to set up bases within its borders, an allegation the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has fiercely denied.

Tehran was a key ally of the Kurdistan Region in the war against the Islamic State group (ISIS). Iran was the first country to offer assistance in 2014 to the Peshmerga who faced a battle against the terror group with outdated equipment.

A film earlier this year, however, rankled Erbil. The short film, released by Farsnews, a media outlet affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said Quds commander Qasem Soleimani saved the Kurdistan Region. Kurdish politicians said international assistance was crucial, but it was the Peshmerga on the ground who won the war. The KRG officially complained to Tehran over the film, saying “this kind of distortion of events should not be allowed.”

Several armed Kurdish Iranian groups are based in the Kurdistan Region, from where they launch attacks on Iranian forces. Iran occasionally fires across the border at alleged positions of these parties. Evidence in a recent court case revealed the IRGC were behind the 2018 murder of a commander of the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDP-I). An Erbil court sentenced three to death this week in connection with the case.

Another issue between Iran and the Kurdistan Region is water. To address chronic water shortages that are worsening because of the climate crisis, Iran has built a network of dams and canals, diverting water from cross-boundary rivers into its own reservoirs, lakes, and fields. Iraq has opened discussions with Iran on sharing vital water resources.

Iran is a major trading partner. Since the overthrow of the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have become two important destinations for Iranian goods.

“Our trade with the Islamic Republic of Iran amounts to six billion dollars every year,” Sheikh Mustafa Abdulrahman, head of the Kurdistan Region’s Import and Export Union, told Rudaw in April, and Kurdish businessmen are cautiously optimistic that they will benefit if nuclear deal negotiations go well and the United States lifts sanctions on Iran.

Iran is hoping to develop industrial and free trade zones on its border with the Kurdistan Region. In May, Sulaimani Governor Haval Abubakir attended a conference about the Baneh economic zone, on the border between Sulaimani and Iran’s Kurdistan province. Sulaimani’s plans for an industrial zone on its side of the frontier are stalled because of lack of funds.

Tehran also hopes to establish two free trade zones at the Parvizkhan and Bashmakh border crossings.

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discussed boosting economic and commercial relations with the Kurdistan Region when he visited in April.

Source » rudaw