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Iran, Iraq sign security deal boosting border cooperation

The deal follows the Islamic Republic escalating its attacks on Kurdish groups in Iraq amid the ongoing protests in Iran.
Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani (L).

Iran and Iraq signed a security agreement on Sunday. The deal follows Iran’s cross-border attacks on Kurdish groups in Iraq and demonstrates the Islamic Republic’s continued sway over its neighbor. 

Iran's Supreme National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani visited Baghdad on Sunday, where he met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. Shamkhani and Iraq's national security adviser, Qassim al-Araji, signed a joint security agreement whereby they pledged to boost security cooperation along their border, according to a tweet from the Iraqi government. 

A statement from Sudani’s office following the meeting noted “Iraq’s steadfast position refusing to allow Iraqi lands to be a springboard for aggression against any neighboring countries.”  

The official Islamic Republic News Agency said the agreement was in response to the “mischief of anti-Islamic Establishment elements residing in Iraq's Kurdistan region.” 

Background: Some Kurdish armed groups from Iran maintain a presence across the border in the Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq. These groups, such as the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), are in a state of conflict with the Iranian government. Iranian security forces have struck their positions for years. 

Iranian concerns about these Kurdish groups especially grew in response to the protests and riots that began in Iran last September. The protests began in Iran’s Kurdistan province before spreading throughout the country. 

Iran targeted Kurdish Iranian forces in Iraq with strikes in September and November. The September strike also injured civilians, Human Rights Watch reported at the time. 

Why it matters: The Iran-Iraq security agreement demonstrates Iran’s continued influence vis-a-vis its neighbor. Sudani’s coalition is dominated by pro-Iran political actors. In December, the two countries signed a $4 billion engineering cooperation agreement.

Iran’s influence in Iraq is continuing despite Iraq’s efforts to improve relations with the Gulf and the United States. Sudani visited the United Arab Emirates in February in an effort to build regional support. The same month, Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein visited Washington

“It’s no secret that I am in touch with both Iranian and American officials,” Hussein told Al-Monitor at the time. “Both sides trust us, and that’s a good thing."

Know more: A growing number of Iranian Kurds are fleeing to Iraq due to repression in Iran. Many struggle as refugees there, Lyse Mauvais reported for Al-Monitor in Erbil in January.

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