Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei on Monday accused “enemies” of trying to “sow discord” between Iran and Iraq, his neighbor and ally shook for nearly a week by demonstrations in which more than 100 people were killed.
After a bloody war (1980-1988), the two Shiite-majority countries came together after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, following the US invasion of Iraq.
Tehran supports several Shia armed groups in Iraq and has helped Iraqi power in its war against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group. The United States, the sworn enemy of Iran, is also an ally of Baghdad.
“Iran and Iraq are two nations whose heart and soul are linked … Enemies seek to sow discord but they have failed and their plot will have no effect” Mr. Khamenei writes in a tweet, without specifying who these “enemies” are.
According to the official Irna news agency, this tweet was published in reaction to the protests in Baghdad and the south of the country, which have been Shiite majority since October 1, to demand the departure of the government, accused of corruption, as well as economic reforms.
Iraqi authorities have accused “saboteurs” and “unidentified snipers” infiltrated to target protesters and police. According to medical and security sources, among the hundred people killed, eight are members of the security forces. More than 6,000 people were injured.
- – “Devilish foreign hands” –
Several Iranian officials last week accused Iran’s “enemies” – notably the United States, Saudi Arabia, and Israel – of being at the root of the protests in Iraq.
“Devilish foreign hands (…) are now trying to destabilize Iraq,” Hossein Amir Abdollahian, an adviser on international relations in parliament, wrote on Twitter on Friday. “This plot will also be foiled,” he added.
On Monday, government spokesman Ali Rabiei said that “enemies are trying to sabotage any opening (relations) between (Iran) and its neighbors.”
He added during a press conference broadcast on state television that Iran was “concerned (…) by any demonstration in its neighbors”.
“We call on the Iraqi people to show more restraint and seek democratic and legal means to meet their demands,” Rabiei said. “As always, the Islamic Republic is ready to stand alongside Iraq,” he said.
The protests come as thousands of Iranian marchers begin the annual Shiite pilgrimage to Imam Hussein’s tomb in Kerbala, about 100 kilometers south of Baghdad, which is due to culminate on October 17 with Arbain’s celebrations. .
Iran had called its nationals planning to travel to Iraq for the great pilgrimage to delay their departure. State television announced on 2 October that one of the three border checkpoints used by pilgrims to visit Iraq had been closed.
But the Iranian agency Isna said Monday that the latter, closed according to her at the request of the Iraqi authorities, had reopened and a group of pilgrims had borrowed to go to Iraq.
In 2018, about 1.8 million Iranians made the Arbain pilgrimage, according to official figures.