Iran’s regime has hailed the visit of the new Iraqi President, hoping that links with Baghdad can provide relief from economic crisis and US sanctions.

Barhim Salih, a prominent Iraqi Kurdish politician, was greeted by President Hassan Rouhani and by the Supreme Leader on Saturday in meetings that declared cooperation and the prospect of expanded trade.

Ayatollah Khamenei used the session to denounce the US, who imposed comprehensive sanctions on the Islamic Republic on November 5:

The way to overcome problems and counter ill-wishers’ plots is to preserve national unity in Iraq, properly recognize friends from foes, stand up to the brazen enemy, rely on youths and maintain and strengthen links.

Rouhani proclaimed that annual trade with Iraq can rise to $20 billion from the current level of $12 billion.

Iraq is a vital buyer of Iranian natural gas. With Baghdad’s stability threatened by cutoffs of electricity — amid protests over corruption, poor infrastructure, and failure to deliver public services — the US has exempted the trade from the comprehensive sanctions.

Salih and Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi were approved by Parliament in early October after months of political wrangling.

Rohuani said he and Salih discussed increased trade in electricity and oil products, joint oil projects, transport links, and the establishment of free-trade zones.

Salih responded with the vague suggestion of a “new regional system” based on “political integrity, national interests, and cooperation between nations and governments”.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader continued the vilification of Washington:

Some ill-wishing governments and countries now seek to deprive Iraqis of the sweet taste of their great achievement of gaining independence and prevent the restoration of peace in Iraq and the entire region.

The only way to counter such plots is to maintain and strengthen unity among Iraqi groups, including Arabs, Kurds, Shia and Sunni [Muslims].