Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim in Baghdad, May 26, 2019.
Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, speaks during a news conference with Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim in Baghdad, May 26, 2019.

CAIRO - Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told journalists during a 48-hour visit to Baghdad that Iran would "respond to "aggressive actions by the U.S., both economic and military," but that it continues to "adhere to the 2015 nuclear accord."  Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Alhakim insisted Baghdad "opposes U.S. sanctions against Tehran," but would be ready to serve as an intermediary.

The 48-hour visit to Baghdad by Zarif follows recent protests by supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr calling for a peaceful resolution to the current escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran.

During a press conference Sunday with his Iraqi counterpart, Zarif insisted Tehran was "still abiding by the 2015 nuclear accord" with the P5+1 group of countries.  But he added Tehran would respond to economic and military actions taken by Washington.

He said Iran will defend itself against efforts to wage war against it - either economic or military - in order to inflict damage to the Iranian people.  Iran, he insists, will react with force and resistance.  Zarif did not, however, specify what Iran's reaction would be.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Alhakim insisted Baghdad did not support what he called "one-side actions" by the United States, but it is ready and willing to serve as an intermediary between Tehran and Washington, if and when the need should arise.

He said that Iraq opposes one-sided actions by Washington and stands by its neighbor Iran in the face of such actions, and said Baghdad was ready to serve as a mediator between both parties at the appropriate moment.

Seeking de-escalation

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mehdi insisted earlier in the week Baghdad is sending delegations to various capitals to push for a de-escalation in tensions.

He said Iraq was talking to both the United States and Iran and will send delegations to a number of countries, including the United States and Iran, in order to push for a calming of tensions.

Alhakim indicated Sunday he is planning to attend the Arab summit that is expected to convene on May 30 in Mecca to discuss the crisis.  Saudi King Salman has called for an Arab, an Islamic and a Gulf summit in Mecca.

Analysts on Saudi-owned al Arabiya TV suggested Baghdad has "good relations" with Saudi Arabia and would "transmit diplomatic signals from Tehran to both Riyadh and its Gulf allies."

While Zarif was visiting Baghdad, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Ali Arakji was undertaking a diplomatic trip to Oman, Kuwait and Qatar.

University of Paris political science professor Khattar Aboud Diab told VOA Iran is "speaking from both sides of its mouth" during the current crisis with the U.S. and the Gulf states.

He said Iran was using double-talk, insisting on one hand that it is seeking peaceful and balanced relations with the Gulf States, while at the same time attacking ships in the United Arab Emirates, attacking a Saudi oil pipeline and using its Houthi, Hezbollah and Hushd proxy militias to encircle Saudi Arabia.