Review of Iraq’s Diplomatic Moves

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hossein Kebriaeizadeh
Expert on Middle East Issues

After being invaded by the United States and termination of the protectorate state between two countries, the new Iraq has been trying since 2005 to regain its past regional role. The calculated and pragmatic policies which have been adopted by Iraqi leaders in relation to the ongoing developments in the region have helped the country to get closer to its goals at regional and international levels in 2012 more than any time before.

The best evidence to this claim is Iraq’s successful holding of the Arab League Summit, which was a diplomatic turning point for the country, on March 19, 2012. The summit was attended by nine heads of Arab states, 17 foreign ministers as well as four international institutions during which Baghdad assumed rotational chairmanship of the Arab League. Some experts maintain that unexpected participation of Arab countries in the meeting, especially the special representative of the Emir of Kuwait, was a sign of Arab countries’ concern about possible inclination of Iraq toward Iran. As a result, they tried by traveling to Iraq to get Iraq back into the sphere of the Arab order which had been established in the region following the fall of Iraq’s former dictator, Saddam Hussein. This point becomes more important if one considers that since the beginning of the popular uprising in Bahrain, Iraq has stood to the opposite of such radical Arab states as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates by continuously supporting that uprising. In Syria, it has also taken sides with Iran and Russia in defending a political solution for the Syrian crisis.

On the other hand, in order to restore the power that their country enjoyed during its golden years in the region, and also to create a new balance of power against the United States’ regional allies such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, Iraqis have been trying to forge new military and political alliances with such likeminded countries as Russia, China and Iran. In doing so, they are actually trying to restore their power at various domestic, regional and transregional levels. This is why the recent signing of a weapons contract worth 4.2 billion dollars between Iraq and Russia during the recent visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Moscow has been considered so important.

On the other hand, being aware of the importance of Iran in regional equations, Iraqi leaders have not simply sufficed to historical, civilizational, and religious commonalties between the two countries. The best evidence to this issue was hosting negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group in Baghdad and the unprecedented welcome given to the Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi during his recent visit to Iraq in October 2012, which opened a new chapter in the two neighbors’ military and defense relations.

Iraq’s diplomatic achievements cannot be limited to the above instances. Resumption of diplomatic relations with Libya after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi as well as restarting friendly relations with the Central Asian countries and moderate members of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] like Qatar and Kuwait, as opposed to its radical members like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, have been also mentioned by analysts as a prelude to other political and economic achievements of the Iraqi leaders when dealing with the ongoing regional crises in Bahrain and Syria as well as energy issues.

Iraq’s diplomatic moves in 2012, especially in relation to Iran and Russia, which also enjoy a military aspect, are telltale signs of the willingness of new Iraqi leaders to form Moscow – Tehran – Baghdad axis as counterweight to the existing Western axis in the region. To achieve their goal, Baghdad has been relying on common positions of the three aforesaid countries with regard to developments in the Middle East, as well as on special concerns of Iran, Russia, and Iraq.

True political resolve on the part of these countries will help shape such an axis of allies and even promote that alliance to a state of unity, and finally strategic unity.

Key Words: Iraq’s Diplomatic Moves, Pragmatic Policies, Arab League Summit, Regional Equations, (P)GCC, Moscow – Tehran – Baghdad, Kebriaeizadeh

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