Iraq seeks to reinvent itself as a regional unifier for domestic stability

Iraq is assuming the role of regional organizer to stabilize its internal affairs which are influenced by Iran and the United States, analysts have said The National.

In an attempt to ease tensions, Baghdad hosted a tripartite meeting with Egypt and Jordan on June 6 to discuss the challenges of the war in Ukraine.

The Iraqi capital also hosted the Syrian film festival to improve cultural relations with its neighbor.

Baghdad finds itself in the middle of a regional power competition, said Lahib Higel, senior Iraq analyst at the International Crisis Group. The National.

“Its internal stability depends on better relations between its neighboring countries,” she said.

Under the leadership of Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, the country has pushed to improve relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia over the past year.

“By facilitating these meetings, Baghdad is supporting a trust-building mechanism between the region’s two main rival states, which hopefully can reduce their mutual perception of long-term threats,” Ms. Higel said.

Since Mr. Al Kadhimi took office in May 2020, Iraq has been trying to transform itself from a playground for regional and international participants to an organizer, said Renad Mansour, director of the Iraq initiative at the group of London’s Chatham House reflection.

“He is trying to grow from just a messenger to an organizer because he is connected to many different sides,” Mr Mansour said. The National.

Mr. Al Kadhimi used his connections as the former head of Iraqi intelligence services to push this initiative.

“Both Iran and Saudi Arabia regard Mr Al Kadhimi as a trustworthy intermediary,” Ms Higel said. “Former prime ministers who have attempted similar initiatives have not gone so far.”

Iraq was isolated from the region after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990 for more than a decade as the country severed ties with his government.

In 2003, several Arab countries were reluctant to engage and re-establish ties following the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam’s regime.

They viewed the successive Shia government as having close ties to Iran.

Several years ago, the region began engaging with Baghdad following a push from Washington that it saw as an attempt to counter Iranian influence.

In August last year, Baghdad hosted a conference in which officials from the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, France, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar, as well as officials from Iran, Turkey and the EU discussed economic, political and security cooperation between Iraq and its neighbors.

French President Emmanuel Macron also attended the summit, which was considered a success.

Transforming Iraq’s Regional Role

Iraqi President Barham Salih said last year that his country had become a “point of convergence” after the success of the Baghdad summit.

Salih said the region needed a new “political, security and economic system to meet the challenges of terrorism, extremism and economic crisis”.

The summit Baghdad held last year was an “attempt to have a kind of portfolio of success” for Mr Al Kadhimi who found it difficult to bring about reforms in the country.

“That’s a big part of why the focus was on this summit last year and creating a role for Iraq,” Mansour said.

However, he said the success of these talks depended on the outcome in the region.

“All parties were happy to talk, but at some point there has to be some kind of negotiation and discussions with content in them and that’s a gauge of their success,” Mr Mansour said.

Updated: June 11, 2022, 08:21

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