On November 29, 2022, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei met with Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia' Al-Sudani, who was on his first visit to Tehran since assuming office. Al-Sudani was elected on October 27, 2022 by the pro-Iranian majority in the Iraqi parliament. In their meeting Khamenei instructed him on how to promote Iran's interests, and warned, for the first time, that if Baghdad fails to impose its authority in Kurdistan – which, according to Tehran, is a source of terror against Iran, especially in the form of encouraging civil protests by Kurds within Iran – Iranian forces will "defend Iraq." Khamenei added that " Iraq's security is Iran's security, just as Iran's security affects Iraq's. He also called on Al-Sudani to "make maximum use of young and motivated Iraqi forces," namely the Shi'ite militias established by Iran in Iraq, apparently as a counterweight to the public influence of Muqtada Al-Sadr, who has declared his opposition to the Iranian order promoted by Tehran in Iraq.
This statement clearly reveals Iran's intentions with respect to Iraq, which are part of its efforts to form a strategically convenient environment for itself and to gain political influence in the Middle East countries, in accordance with its plan of exporting the Islamic revolution. In the past Iran tried to gain control of Iraq in various ways, especially by economic means, using it to bypass the U.S. sanctions, constructing dams to withhold water from Iraq, and trading Iranian electricity for Iraqi oil), and consolidating its military and political influence in Iraq by means of the Shi'ite militias it formed there and by activating Iraqi political figures loyal to Tehran. Part of this is the Iranian oil ministry's recent opening of an office in Baghdad, in addition to offices in Kurdistan, to "improve the cooperation and synergy between the two sister countries, especially in implementing joint projects involving oil, gas and energy." According to the Iranian oil ministry's representative in Iraq, Abbas Beheshti, "this office will manage Iraqi offices, as well as additional executive sub-offices that are being established in Basra and in Iraqi Kurdistan."
Khamenei's dramatic announcement was highlighted by the Iranian state media, with threats against the U.S., for example in an editorial of the regime mouthpiece Kayhan. The editorial was published a few hours after the Iranian team's loss to the U.S. in the FIFA World Cup (although it written before the match), presumably in order to remind the Iranian public and the countries of the region that, if Iran can't beat to the U.S. on the football pitch, it can still retaliate and demonstrate its regional dominance.
The following are translated excerpts from Khamenei's statements to the Iraqi prime minister, and from the editorial of the regime mouthpiece Kayhan.
Supreme Leader Khamenei To Iraqi Prime Minister: "You Must Stand Fast Against The Enemy's Desires By Relying On Young, Motivated Figures And Forces That Have Passed The Test"
In their November 29, 2022 meeting, Khamenei congratulated Al-Sudani on his election and called him "a loyal and able man" whose election as Iraq's prime minister is "a source of joy." He said: "Iraq's progress and attainment of its rightful high position are an interest of the Islamic Republic [of Iran], and we believe that you [Al-Sudani] are the man who possesses the ability to promote Iraq's affairs and relations and bring it to an independent position befitting its civilization and history.
"Iraq is considered to be the region's leading Arab country in terms of its natural and human resources and its cultural, historical and civilizational background. Sadly, despite this background, Iraq has not yet managed to attain its rightful high position, and we hope that, under you, it will manage to advance and attain it. Attaining Iraq's rightful high position and the cohesion and unity of the groups within it require making maximum use of young and motivated Iraqi forces.
"Iraq's progress clearly has enemies who may not display their hostility openly but do not accept a government like yours. You must stand fast against the enemy's desires by relying on young and motivated figures and forces that have passed the test of dealing with the great and deadly danger of ISIS.
"Iraq's new government can make significant changes in various areas, especially in providing services to the people [and] supporting [them] by using the considerable financial resources and facilities that exist in the country."
Responding to a statement by Al-Sudani, that "based on the [Iraqi] constitution, we do not allow any side to use Iraq's soil to undermine Iran's security," Khamenei said: "Sadly, this is now happening in some parts of Iraq [i.e., Kurdistan], and the only solution is for Iraq's central government to extend its authority to those areas. Our position on Iraq's security is obviously that if any party seeks to violate its security we will stand tall against it and defend [Iraq]. Iraq's security is Iran's security, just as Iran's security affects Iraq's.
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"In previous periods there were also negotiations and good understandings, but they never reached the stage of implementation. So we must advance towards implementing those understandings, mainly in the areas of economic cooperation, trade and railways."
Khamenei added that there is need "to overcome the desires" of those who seek "to prevent understandings and cooperation between Iran and Iraq, by taking action."
The Iraqi prime minister said that "the honorable martyrs [Qassem] Soleimani [commander of Iran's Qods Force] and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis [deputy commander of Al-Hashd Al-Sha'bi, who was killed with Soleimani in January 2020] are further evidence that the two nations, Iran and Iraq, stand side by side."
He also said that Iraq's new government "is determined to implement the agreements between the two countries and expand the relations in various areas, especially in the economic sphere. Iran's and Iraq's security are not separate, and, based on the constitution, we will not allow any party to use Iraq's soil to undermine security."
Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei (right) with Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Sudani (Tasnimnews.com, Iran, November 29, 2022)
Regime Mouthpiece Kayhan: "After This Visit We Can Expect The Iraqi Government, Along With Iran, To Take More Serious Measures Than Ever Before To Disarm And Chastise Those Cunning And Opportunistic Groups [In Kurdistan]. Putting Down These Barbaric Armed Groups Is Another Severe Blow To America And The Zionist Regime. This Achievement Alone Is A Joint Iranian-Iraqi Goal Against America!"
In a November 30, 2022 article following Iran's loss to the U.S. in the FIFA World Cup and its elimination from the tournament, the regime mouthpiece Kayhan stressed that Iran has defeated the U.S. in a different arena, namely in Iraq, especially in light of Khamenei's statements about Iran's intention to defend Iraq if it feels Iraq is threatened by hostile forces. Titled "A Joint Iranian-Iraqi Goal against America!," the Kayhan editorial uses Iraq as a tool in Iran's struggle with the U.S. by presenting it as part of a joint front with Iran, Lebanon, Yemen and other countries against the Western and American plots to topple their regimes and weaken them so that Islam will not be able to rule them. Kayhan stresses that Al-Sudani coordinates with Iran and acts according to its interests on the economic, military and political levels. The goal scored by Iran against the U.S., according to Kayhan, is its expulsion from the region, first from Afghanistan and now from Iraq and Syria. The regime mouthpiece explains that the Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan are likewise blows to the U.S., which launches terror against Iran from Iraq in order to undermine the Islamic regime. Kayhan adds that, even if Iran loses to the U.S. in the World Cup (as indeed happened), the struggle between them transcends the arena of sports and is in fact a struggle "between absolute good and absolute evil," and therefore strengthens not only the Iranian nation (many of whose members celebrated Iran's loss to the U.S. in protest against the oppressive regime) but also the unity of the Iran-led resistance axis.
The following is a translation of the Kayhan article:
"Shia' Al-Sudani, Iraq's new prime minister, arrived in Tehran yesterday [November 29, 2022] after visiting Jordan and Kuwait. This visit is an important one from every perspective. From the regional perspective, it is an important victory for both Iraq and Iran, and a strategic defeat for the U.S. and all the enemies of the resistance. We must not forget that Al-Sudani, or, more properly, the Iraqi prime minster, has recovered from a long and deep manufactured crisis. This crisis was embodied by [Iraq's] 'headless government,' in which many enemies of both nations were invested. This crisis is similar to the one in Lebanon, which has not yet been resolved and has brought that country into a convoluted and exhausting political process. [It also similar to] the crisis that took place in Iran under Rohani's second government, after some professional crisis-makers brought him to power and then demanded his resignation so that the government would be headless. In one word, Sudani's visit to Tehran was evidence of the state's victory over these crises. This victory may herald the victory of the Lebanese nation over its similar crisis. Lebanon's political situation is no more complex than Iraq's, and it might be hoped that, in light of the similarity of the two crises, Lebanon too will successfully recover from these manufactured crises.
"From an economic perspective this visit is significant and important as well. Not many details about it were published, but what was published in the media is significant in itself. The consideration of a payment mechanism for the electricity and gas [we provide] to Iraq, at a scope of $7bn, and the efforts of both sides to expand the scope of their annual trade from $10bn to $20bn, are among the important economic aspects related to this visit. Even if this is the only achievement of this visit, it can be characterized as an important visit. If these economic efforts bear fruit, this in itself can be another blow to America and its sanctions.
"The implementation of the plan of the Iraqi parliament to expel the American troops from the country – which became serious and was ratified following the cowardly assassination of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis – may be another important aspect of these [Iraqi] elections and this visit. This may be the main reason for the Americans' fury over the election of Al-Sudani. [U.S. President] Biden expressed his anger [only] a few days after the formation of the new Iraqi cabinet and the departure of Mustafa Kadhimi's dubious government, saying: 'We will not cooperate with the Al-Sudani government.' The implementation of the Iraqi government's plan, which was ratified by a large parliamentary majority, is part of the 'fierce revenge' [that Iranian officials promised following the U.S. assassination of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis on Iraqi soil], and this issue too was discussed during the visit. Iran has said that the rocket attack on the American base in 'Ail Al-Assad was just a slap in the face, and that America's expulsion from the region will be a larger part of avenging the death of these two martyrs. America has been expelled from Afghanistan in humiliation. Its expulsion from Iraq may be the end of [its presence] in the region. Do not doubt the fact that the attacks on the U.S. forces in Syria will force them to withdraw from this country [as well], sooner or later, thereby completing the two processes of 'completely expelling America from the region' and 'the victories of the resistance.' Why the victories of the resistance? Because Al-Sudani is one of the avid supporters of the Popular Mobilization [Units] in Iraq [i.e., the pro-Iranian Shi'ite militias there].
"One of the important dimensions and goals of the talks between the sides in this visit is the military and security aspect. This can be gathered from the reports about it in the regional media, and especially in the Iraqi media. IRNA [reported on] November 29: 'Some Iraqi media outlets and experts say that [Al-Sudani] is visiting Iran at the head of a political-economic delegation in order to sign some agreements and memoranda, while others regard the security and military aspect of his visit as more important, in light of the latest developments in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Iranian attacks on headquarters of [Kurdish] anti-Iranian separatist groups there, and in light of the coordination between the two countries in defending the Iraqi forces on the border between the Islamic Republic [of Iran] and Iraq (so as to prevent the separatists and the planners of revolutions from entering Iran).' The talks between the Iraqi prime minister and the [Iranian supreme] leader and president addressed these dimensions, and you can read the full report in this issue of [Kayhan].
"Hence, this visit is an effective measure in exterminating the separatist groups that lurk in Iraq. After this visit we can expect the Iraqi government, along with Iran, to take more serious measures than ever before to disarm and chastise these cunning and opportunistic groups. Putting down these barbaric armed groups is another severe blow to America and the Zionist regime. This achievement in itself is another joint Iranian-Iraqi goal against America! The Iraqis too are furious with these separatist groups, which are affiliated with Israel, America and Saudi Arabia.
"[Above] we discussed the slap in the face and scoring goals against America. The atmosphere in the country is totally oriented toward football. This article was written four hours before the important game between Iran and America, and by the time you read this, the results of the game will already be known. We would like to note the common denominator of Al-Sudani's visit to Tehran and this football game, [both of which are] 'a slap in the face of America'… We know that our country's national football team has never managed to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup tournament and was always eliminated in the first round. We know that the noble and oppressed spirit of the Iranian society is wounded by all the adversities and the internal and external enemies, and perhaps has never been in more need of healing, happiness, and unity than it is today. We also know that, because our opponent in this game is America, many eyes in Gaza, Lebanon, Sanaa, Basra, Algeria, Karachi, Herat and even Caracas, Buenos Aires and Saudi Arabia are focused on that playing field in Qatar.
Put simply, numerous eyes – even in the fantasy world of football – are waiting for the only country [Iran] that has rebelled against the world order of this imperialism [i.e., America] to deliver it a resounding defeat and a slap in the face. Whether we like it or not, a sport like football can either break or restore the unity and the solidarity of a nation. In the match between Iran and Wales we saw how, in a few minutes and with two kicks, everything that had been staged in order to create division in Iranian society collapsed and evaporated. A victory in this match [against the U.S.] may destroy the unity and solidarity of all the world's Satans that have gathered in London. Despite this we believe that, whatever the result, it will not damage the unity of Iran. Nor will it [affect the unity] of the Islamic nation, even a little, because the very fact that this confrontation between 'absolute good and absolute evil' is taking place has strengthened this unity."
 See MEMRI reports: Special Dispatch No. 7932 - In Advance Of Iranian President Rohani's Iraq Visit, Iran Takes Control Of Iraqi Banking System – In Cooperation with Iraqi Prime Minister – In Order To Circumvent U.S. Sanctions – March 7, 2019; Inquiry & Analysis No. 1434 - Iraq's Importance To The Survival Of Iran's Regime And Economy Following U.S. Sanctions – January 30, 2019.
 IRNA (Iran), November 29, 2022.
 Website of Iran's Supreme Leader (Iran), November 29, 2022.
 Kayhan (Iran), November 30, 2022.