In a move that is bound to concern Washington, Iran and Iraq signed a pact on Sunday to step up military cooperation and the fight against “terrorism and extremism”, according to official Iranian news agencies.

At a time when the US has repeatedly voiced its intentions to limit the influence of Tehran in the region and elsewhere, this can’t be looked upon as anything but bad news.

Iranian Defence Minister Hossein Dehghan and his Iraqi counterpart Erfan al-Hiyali signed a memorandum of understanding which also covered border security, logistics and training, the official news agency IRNA reported.

“Extending cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism and extremism, border security, and educational, logistical, technical and military support are among the provisions of this memorandum,” IRNA reported after the signing of the accord in Tehran.

Iran-Iraq ties have improved since Iran’s long-time enemy Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003 and an Iraqi government led by Shi’ite Muslims came to power. Iran is mostly a Shi’ite nation.

U.S. President Donald Trump has voiced concern over what he sees as growing Iranian influence in conflicts in Syria, Yemen and Iraq, where it is aligned with Shi’ite fighters.

Tensions between Iran and the United States have heightened since the election of Trump, who has often accused Tehran of backing militant groups and destabilizing the region.

Earlier this month, Trump said that new threats were emerging from “rogue regimes like North Korea, Iran and Syria and the governments that finance and support them”.

The US has frequently accused Iran of arming insurgent groups in Iraq, something Tehran has denied. The new pact between the two countries which includes border security will be an area to watch in the coming months. This will be included in the growing list of issues the Trump administration will have to deal with.

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File Photo courtesy DOD

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