Iran’s FM due in Iraq today

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi said that the country’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif is scheduled to pay an official visit to Iraq on Sunday, according to IRNA.
Managers and heads of dozens of major private and public companies will accompany the foreign minister, Qassemi said.  
Zarif is to hold talks with senior Iraqi officials and attend joint meetings of the two countries’ merchants in several cities of Iraq, according to the ministry’s official website.
The visit would come against the backdrop of Iran’s efforts to boost its foreign trade in the era of US sanctions.
Iraq’s foreign minister said recently that his country is “not obliged” to abide by sanctions imposed by the US against Iran and would be pursuing options to continue bilateral trade.
On December 20, the US granted Baghdad a 90-day extension to a waiver on abiding by the sanctions that were reimposed on the Islamic Republic in November.
Trade between the two neighboring countries is thought to amount to around $12bn, while Iran provides around 40 percent of Iraq’s electricity needs.
Although Iraq faces possible censure by the US if it fails to cease its trading with Iran by the end of the waiver period, Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim said his country could continue relations with Iran.
“These sanctions, the siege, or what is called the embargo, these are unilateral, not international. We are not obliged (to follow) them,” he said, speaking to a gathering of journalists on January 3.
The trip follows Zarif’s three-day visit to India where he discussed enhancement of economic ties with Indian officials.
Iraq and India are among Iran’s biggest economic partners, which are under US pressure to decrease trade level with Iran.
In India, Zarif lauded ties, especially economic relations, with the Asian country, expressing confidence that Tehran and New Delhi will counter the US “illegal” measures, sanctions and bullying.  
“Relations with India have always been important. India is an important neighbor,” Zarif said in an interview with NDTV in New Delhi on Wednesday, adding that Iran and India had “common security concerns” as well as regional concerns regarding the situation in Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf region.  “We have done trade with each other for centuries, so it’s very difficult for an outside power to come and intervene in these relations … what the Unites States is asking is not only in violation of international law but [it is] asking others also to violate international law and Security Council resolutions,” Zarif said.  
He praised India for adopting “a principled position that it will only abide by UN sanctions not by unilateral sanctions.”
Zarif, however, admitted that there were “economic pressures,” saying, “The Americans are using every method of arm-twisting available in the books and outside the books. That’s what they are doing illegally, unlawfully.”