An Iraqi security delegation visiting Sanaa recently signed a security agreement with Yemeni authorities in an effort to combat terrorism, track down al-Qaeda leaders and exchange prisoners.
"This agreement is the first of its kind between the two countries concerning the war on terrorism," said Maj. Gen. Ihasan al-Musawi, head of foreign relations for the Iraqi Ministry of Interior. "Joint committees from both countries will be responsible for implementing the security agreement in the next few days."
Direct communication will be established between Interior Ministry officials from both countries to effectively exchange intelligence and confront any possible threats, al-Musawi said.
The agreement is the fourth that Iraq has signed with an Arab country in 2012. Prior agreements, which are consistent with resolutions that emerged from the recent Arab Summit, were made with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the new interim government in Libya.
Iraqi officials said the country has been successful in 2012 in mobilising a regional and international coalition against terrorism.
"Arab leaders decided to present a united front against terrorism, thereby planting the seed for a regional and international centre operating within the United Nations to combat al-Qaeda and all radical ideologies that sanction killing and destruction," al-Musawi said.
The agreement between Iraq and Yemen is crucial because al-Qaeda branches in both countries are very similar in regard to the way terrorist operations are carried out and many of the same al-Qaeda leaders are wanted in both countries, he said, citing Abu Muaz al-Maani who led terrorist operations in both Iraq and Yemen in 2006.
"Iraq approached most Arab and regional countries to find a method for mutual co-operation to eradicate terrorism and end al-Qaeda's reign," said Falih al-Fayyadh, Iraq's national security advisor. "[Some of these efforts] culminated in security agreements and others are under review. We are optimistic we can reach a common framework for understanding and co-operation with these countries regarding al-Qaeda."
Al-Fayyadh said Iraq has agreements with several European and Western countries to help fight terrorism. They support Iraqi security forces with intelligence, equipment and expertise and also provide training courses.
The security agreement with Yemen stipulates that intelligence regarding al-Qaeda threats be shared and requires co-ordinated efforts, notably close surveillance of al-Qaeda's movements, he said.
Through the agreements Iraq signed with Libya, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, "we have achieved great success this year mobilising a regional and international front in the war on terrorism," al-Fayyadh said.
Nabeel al-Bukairi, a researcher who studies al-Qaeda and Islamist groups, said the security agreement will strengthen the performance of both countries in intelligence collaboration and exchanging expertise. This will ultimately defeat al-Qaeda and terrorism, he said.
"No one can say for sure that there is only one source for weapons [for al-Qaeda branches in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula], but the environmental, social, tribal and political differences between Yemen and Iraq might indicate different sources exist," al-Bukairi said. "However, collaboration between both sides will undoubtedly lead to positive results in this arena as well."
Other officials spoke about the need to combat extremism beyond security issues.
Hassan al-Sanid, head of the Iraqi parliament's security and defence committee, said Iraq's agreements with other countries on fighting terrorism should be based solely on humanitarian grounds rather than political ones.
"The objectives of the war on terrorism have gone beyond security and eliminating al-Qaeda," he said. "It has now become a humanitarian issue that concerns the entire globe, like any illness or disease that spreads throughout the world."