In a statement via the state-run Iraqi News Agency on Thursday, the country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Iraq will not join any force patrolling the Gulf’s waterways, particularly any involving the Jewish state.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim also spoke by phone with his Iranian counterpart, Javad Zarif, with the pair discussing bilateral issues, according to the Iraqi ministry’s website.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have signed on to the US-led mission in the wake of Saturday’s attacks on a pair of Saudi oil refineries. Saudi Arabia and a host of top US officials blame Iran for the attacks, with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo describing them as an “act of war.” Iran denies all responsibility, pointing to a statement by Houthi rebels in Yemen claiming credit for the strikes.
However, the maritime mission has been in the works following a series of attacks this summer on oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically vital waterway through which around a quarter of all the world’s oil passes. Britain, Australia, and Bahrain have already enlisted, while Japan has said it may send a force of its own to the region.
Israel has not yet committed any vessels to the mission, but is reportedly providing intelligence assistance.
While Iran and Iraq have been mortal enemies in the recent past – fighting a devastating eight-year war in the 1980s – relations between the two countries have been more cordial as of late. Iranian FM Zarif visited Baghdad in May to strengthen these ties, and proposed a regional non-aggression pact with Baghdad.
A month earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and pledged to expand bilateral trade and security cooperation with Tehran’s former enemy.