Thanks to the Baghdad summit, Iraq dreams of a regional mediator

The Iraqi, Egyptian, Turkish, Jordanian, Iranian, Saudi and French flags are unusual in the grounds of the presidential palace in Baghdad. Beyond regional antagonisms, this explosive patchwork represents the nations participating in the Middle East summit, convened on Saturday August 28 by the Iraqi authorities.

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Through this initiative, co-organized with President Emmanuel Macron – who arrived the day before – Iraq seeks to send a key message: after being marginalized by nearly forty years of conflict, it is now ready to return to the center of the regional diplomatic game. .

Sovereignty and stability of Iraq

“The conference (…) will make it possible to lay down the terms of Iraq’s sovereignty and stability in the region with all of its neighbors and partners. It will make it possible to lay down the framework for cooperation to fight terrorism all together, but also to carry out economic development projects ”, greeted Emmanuel Macron after meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Moustafa Al-Kadhimi and President Barham Saleh.

The fight against terrorism in the region, the desire to defuse the tensions between the Saudi and Iranian rivals, the Afghan crisis in the light of the latest escalations between the Taliban and Washington… Several hot topics were invited on the sidelines of the discussion session.

→ ANALYSIS. Why is Emmanuel Macron returning to Iraq?

Until the opening, the mystery hovered over the list of its participants: if King Abdullah II of Jordan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi quickly confirmed their presence, the other heads of state – Turkish, Iranian, Saudi, etc. – have cast doubt on their level of representation. Among the emissaries sent are finally the heads of Iranian diplomacy Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Saudi Faycal Ben Farhane – their arrival constitutes a tour de force – and Turkish Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the UAE Prime Ministers Mohammed ben Rachid Al Maktoum and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sabah al-Khaled al-Sabah.

Defuse tensions

While strong announcements should not be expected at the end of this event, observers concede that its very outfit constitutes a diplomatic victory for Baghdad. “Even if we have often forgotten it in the wake of the Saddam Hussein era (1979-2003), the American invasion of 2003 and then the war with Daesh, Iraq has historically played a mediating role in the region, in particular because of its great ethnic and cultural diversity. Currently, the Prime Minister seems to want to revive this tradition ”, explains the Middle East specialist Anne Gadel, member of the North Africa-Middle East observatory of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation.

Beyond the summit, Baghdad intends to continue to renew contact between Riyadh, an ally of the United States, and Iran. Iraq has an interest in reducing the tensions between the two great regional powers, being the target of Shiite militias more or less loyal to Tehran. In recent months, Mustafa al-Kadhimi has just started to work behind the scenes in this dynamic.

“Comedy”

“In April, there were these secret meetings organized between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Baghdad, but also the meetings organized in recent months between Iraq, Egypt and Jordan. This trio could well see itself forming a sort of infrastructure for regional dialogue, which could remedy certain shortcomings of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) or the Arab League ”, considers the specialist.

Iraqi Shiite student from the east of the Iraqi capital, Kassim, 19, denounces behindthis summit “A vast comedy”. “I do not expect anything concrete, internationally, when everything is already bad here”, he sighs.

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Director of the French Center for Research on Iraq, Franco-Iraqi sociologist Adel Bakawan also believes that the initiative constitutes a “Very beautiful facade”. “But how could it legitimately claim to act on future strategic orientations, when the Iraqi state is itself today totally fractured politically, diplomatically, culturally, economically and socially? “

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