Iraqi-Kurdish presidential candidate 'secretly visited Iran' to agree deal on 'US spy base': source
The interior minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) secretly visited Iran this week and signed several security agreements with Tehran officials, a source close to Iraq's ruling elites told The New Arab.
Rebar Ahmed, the candidate of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) for Iraq's presidency, spoke with Iranian officials on key security and border issues affecting Tehran, including the presence of a US airbase near Erbil, Iraqi-Kurdistan.
His visit comes as the Iraqi political process remains deadlocked with rival blocs unable to agree on a president or form a new government, following October's parliamentary elections that were challenged by pro-Tehran parties.
"Ahmed and Iranian officials have signed security deals on securing joint borders. Iranian officials warned that if the Iranian Kurdish political parties that are based in the Iraqi Kurdistan region launch attacks against Iranian forces from the Kurdistan region territories, then Iran will retaliate severely," the source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The New Arab.
"The KRG and Iran also agreed that Harir Airbase, a military base near Erbil hosting the US and the coalition forces that was targeted in recent months, will be overseen by the Iraqi federal government and the airbase will only be used for duties that Baghdad demands from the coalition forces."
He also agreed that Harir would not be used as a base for US-led forces to spy on Iran via drones. Iran has also accused Iraqi-Kurdistan authorities of hosting Israeli entities.
"The KRG interior minister has denied that they have any relations with Israel or that Israeli companies were in Erbil, and promised Iran that they are ready to defuse all Iranian suspicions on a list of companies that [it believes acts] as spies for Israel," the source added.
In March, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) claimed responsibility for launching a dozen ballistic missiles on a residential mansion in Erbil. Iran claimed the site was being used for Israeli drone attacks on Iranian targets in the western Kermanshah province.
Despite talk that Iran might support Ahmad's bid for the presidency, Tehran insisted that a member of the rival Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) should be made president.
The president of Iraq is always reserved for Kurdish candidates.
Barham Salih, the incumbent Iraqi president, has been nominated by the PUK for a second term.
The New Arab has contacted Mahmoud Mohamed, the official spokesperson of the KDP, and Lawk Ghafuri, the head of the KRG foreign media relations, for comment but they were not immediately available.
The source also confirmed that Masoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, has not visited Iran.
Ahmed Mullah Talal, a journalist and the former official spokesperson of the Iraqi government, on Tuesday said that Barzani had recently made a secret visit to Iran. Fadhil Mirani, the secretary of the KDP who was the guest of Mulla Talal's on UTV, denied the visit
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative in Tehran, Nazim Dabbagh, speaking to the Voice of America (VOA), also denied reports that Barzani secretly visited Iran.