Iraq's former premier unveils an intriguing account of the Tehran-Riyadh deal: Soleimani as peacemaker

Iraq's former premier unveils an intriguing account of the Tehran-Riyadh deal: Soleimani as peacemaker

Shafaq News/ Former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi on Tuesday shared an intriguing account of the recent Saudi-Iranian agreement, crediting the commander of Iran's Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, for the success of the groundbreaking deal.

In an article published earlier today, Abdul Mahdi remarked that the recent Beijing meeting and the joint statement of Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China hold "historic significance".

The former premier said many parties have contributed to the crafting of this strategic event, which, if successful, "has the potential to alter not only the region but the world."

This development is not merely about re-establishing ties between two countries that were previously at odds. It will lead to a complete resolution of sensitive and dangerous issues, he added.

"The sensitive novelty was the Chinese sponsorship of the agreement, with all of its implications and capabilities to contribute to the region's reconstruction. For the sake of speedy documentation, I have shared what I know, and undoubtedly others have their own account," wrote Abdul Mahdi.

Abdul Mahdi revealed that during a state visit to China in September 2019, he received a phone call from Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani asked him if he could visit Saudi Arabia and act as an intermediary between Iran and the kingdom.

He said the matter was urgent, to which Abdul Mahdi replied that he would go there after returning to Baghdad.

Upon informing the Chinese side of Soleimani's request, they were delighted and suggested the following:

*We can assist in resolving the Yemen crisis by forming a unified national government.

*We welcome the development of Saudi-Iraqi relations and engagement between the two nations.

*Dialogue and compromise with neighboring countries are easy, unlike with foreign countries.

*Commitment to a ten-year ceasefire.

*Mutual respect with no victor or vanquished.

*Ensuring navigation in the Gulf.

*A joint solution to the crises in Syria, Libya, and the rest of the region.

*Meeting of foreign ministers.

Abdul Mahdi continued by saying that he contacted the Saudi government, which inquired about the purpose of the visit. Abdul Mahdi informed them of Iran's request for mediation and identified Soleimani as the Iranian representative. The Saudis welcomed the proposal.

"We returned to Iran on the morning of 25/9/2019 and left Baghdad in the evening for Saudi Arabia. Former Prime Minister (then director of intelligence) al-Kadhimi accompanied me, along with Minister of Oil Thamer Al-Ghadhban, and Mohamed Al-Hashimi, the cabinet secretary. We were received by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques; then we held a late-night meeting with the Crown Prince [Mohammad bin Salman]."

He explained, "Aramco facilities were hit by a missile strike, and Iran was accused of it, despite denying responsibility. US Secretary of State Pompeo called on September 5, 2019, and said that the missiles were launched from the north of the Gulf, not from Iraq, as rumored at the time. The atmosphere was at the highest level of tension, and the Crown Prince spoke with firmness. When it was over, we said, 'Your Highness, do you want war with Iran?' He said, 'No.' We said, 'If we do not go to war, either the situation will remain tense and threaten to explode, or we negotiate.' He said, 'We have tried this many times and have not succeeded.' I reminded him how the problems were solved between the late Sheikh Rafsanjani and King Abdullah. He said, 'What do you suggest?' I said, 'Let's open a window. Write down your vision, and we will convey it to the Iranian side. We are confident that this will open the door to dialogue.' He said, 'I will send you a paper.' And indeed, it came on (9/10/2019), titled 'Paper to inquire about the Iranian Position.' It includes eight points, later developed into nine. With an opening, it says in part: 'While the Kingdom is keen to respect the principles of international law and its deep commitment to its customs and principles, including the principle of good neighborliness, combating terrorism and fighting extremism, and developing its relations with the countries of the world, especially neighboring countries, to contribute to enabling them to live in security, stability, and prosperity.'... etc."

He added, "The paper was 'dry.' The Saudi side asked if we had any proposals about it. We said, 'Yes.' I did not change anything substantive, but I softened it with some expressions because I knew the Iranian side was also 'dry.' And this will be a bad start. And indeed, the modified Saudi paper came, with some bluntness, without taking all of our proposals. I handed it over to the martyr. And he had seen the first paper. He said, 'You did well. The first paper would have been difficult to present to the leadership."

"In the weeks leading to his untimely assassination, I informed Soleimani about the Saudi Arabian request for an Iranian response. He disclosed that the Iranian leadership had deliberated on the matter and he would return with a suitable response upon arriving in Baghdad," he said.

"Regrettably, the former American administration executed their misguided and cowardly operation. Soleimani's briefcase that contains important documents went missing. I then passed on the responsibility to Prime Minister al-Kadhimi on May 7th, 2020. Despite this setback, the initiative continued, and the first meetings were held in Baghdad in April 2021, with Mr. Mohammad Hashemi representing al-Kadhimi in his stead. Sheikh Khaled al-Humaidan led the Saudi delegation, while the Iranian side was represented by Deputy Secretary-General of the National Security Council, Mr. Saeed Iravani. Meetings proceeded with the involvement of other officials, culminating in a strategic agreement in Beijing."

"Both parties engaged in robust and forceful negotiations, and the agreement could not have been reached without regional and global developments, the growing influence of China, and guarantees from both sides. The agreement holds a shared vision for the wider trajectory of the region, as can be gleaned from the concluding statement," Abdul Mahdi concluded.

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