BAGHDAD/WASHINGTON - Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi is to visit Iran on Monday for talks on Baghdad’s battle against the Islamic State group, which holds swathes of the country, his office said.
The one-day trip is part of Abadi’s bid “to unite the efforts of the region and the world to help Iraq in its war against the terrorist group,” it said in a statement issued on Sunday. The visit also aims to strengthen cooperation between the two neighbours “in the fields of energy, and housing and construction,” among other areas.
Iraq is fighting to push back IS, which overran much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland in a lightning offensive in June. Tehran is a key backer of the Shiite-led government in Baghdad. According to senior Iraqi Kurdish officials, it has deployed troops on the Iraqi side of the border in the Khanaqin area northeast of Baghdad.
They say Iranian forces also played a role in the Shiite Turkmen town of Amerli, where security forces and allied militiamen broke a months-long jihadist siege at the end of August. Evidence also indicates that Iran sent Sukhoi Su-25 ground attack jets to Iraq, though it is unclear who subsequently piloted the aircraft. A US-led coalition is carrying out air strikes against IS in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, where the jihadists also hold major territory. Washington and its allies have also sent military advisers to assist Baghdad’s forces. Abadi has repeatedly stated that he opposes the presence of foreign ground forces in Iraq.
Moreover, Spain will begin training Iraqi forces later this year to battle Islamic State fighters but has ruled out taking part in ground operations in Syria, officials said Saturday. Defense Minister Pedro Morenes made the announcement in Washington, where he met Friday with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
“We could be starting up by the end of this year because the whole operation is evolving fast, all the time, every day; we have to adjust our abilities and what we are offering, in response to that evolution,” Morenes told reporters. He visited US Central Command in Florida, where he discussed military operations with Iraq and against IS militants. In Washington, Hagel and Morenes said the two allies would be cooperating on the fight against IS fighters. Hagel and Morenes also vowed to cooperate against Ebola, which has killed more than 4,500 people mainly in West Africa. “The two leaders discussed how each of their nations is addressing the virus, focusing on the importance of strict protocols to protect the American and Spanish people,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement. As such, under a 1952 agreement, Spain will allow US planes to use its bases in Moron and Rota in southern Spain to facilitate the transfer of material and personnel to hard-hit West Africa, Morenes said. But the bases will also serve American troops deployed to northern Iraq. A global UN appeal for nearly $1 billion to fight the spread of the disease has so far fallen short, but a spokesman told AFP more funds were coming in daily. Out of $988 million requested a month ago, the UN said Saturday that $385.9 million had already been given by a slew of governments and agencies, with a further $225.8 million promised. Symptoms of Ebola include fever, headache, diarrhea, vomiting and in some cases bleeding.
Even if a person is infected, the virus can only be passed on once symptoms appear and only through direct contact with their bodily fluids, such as mucus, semen, saliva, vomit, stool or blood. There is no licensed treatment or vaccine for the contagious disease, but several countries are trying to develop an effective vaccine.