IRAQ AND IRAN AGREE TO BOOST TIES IN HIGH-LEVEL MEETINGS
Iraq and Iran have agreed to strive for improved bilateral relations as Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein met with several Iranian officials, including President Hassan Rouhani, to discuss security, trade, and the role of the United States in the region. The summit was the first meeting between the two nations since July. The July meeting between Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was preceded by six months of political deadlock. Both Mr Hussein and Mr Rouhani agreed that it is in the best interest of both nations to develop bilateral ties to improve relations, independent of US influence. Both leaders referred to the US military presence in Iraq as a “destabilising factor,” and denounced the normalisation deals brokered by the US between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain, as a “huge betrayal” of Palestinians. Mr Rouhani expressed support for an Iraqi parliament vote to expel US troops. Discussions also focused on Shatt al-Arab, a river that serves as the border between Iraq and Iran. The river flows into the Persian Gulf, making it a strong trade route. Both countries expressed interest in further expanding trade relations, via the river, to strengthen economic ties. Mr al-Kadhimi approved an Iraqi special committee to continue discussions with Tehran on ways to improve relations.
From a Christian perspective, there has been significant growth in the Iranian Church over the past decade, according to studies done by GAMAAN, a Netherlands-based research group. While the percentage of the population identifying as Christian in Iran is small – estimated at just under 2% by The Joshua Project – they are active, even into neighbouring nations. More stable relations between Iran and Iraq could therefore lead to increased opportunities for the Iranian Church to share the Gospel with their Iraqi neighbours, where the number of Christians have declined steadily through war and terrorist activities. In 2019, Reverend Bashar Warda, Archbishop of Irbil (the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan), pleaded with British religious leaders to do more to help the vanishing Church in Iraq. “Christianity in Iraq,” said Reverend Warda, “one of the oldest churches, if not the oldest church in the world, is perilously close to extinction.” Christianity has survived years of persecution in the Middle East, due at least in part to the willingness of believers to reach out and share the Gospel with those around them. Should Iran and Iraq establish stronger political, economic, and trade ties, the Iranian Church will have a great opportunity to strengthen spiritual ties as well.
Pray with us for the following:
- For the Lord to direct the discussions between Iranian and Iraqi leaders so that bilateral relations will focus on the upliftment of their respective peoples, rather than military spending
- For the Iranian Church to seize the opportunities that arise, to share the Gospel with their Iraqi neighbours
- For Iraqi Christians to be strengthened and encouraged
Image: Al Jazeera