Iraq Hosts Summit to Ease Regional Tensions | Business and Economy News


Iraq hosted a regional conference on Saturday aimed at easing tensions in the Middle East while emphasizing the Arab country’s new role as mediator.

Among the attendees were the sworn enemies of Iran and Saudi Arabia, whose rivalry has often been played out in Iraq and other countries, including Yemen and Lebanon.

Saudi Arabia has said it will be represented by its Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian was also in the Iraqi capital.

“This summit marks Iraq’s return as a central actor in the region,” said political scientist Ihsan al-Shammari, who heads the Center for Iraqi Political Reflection in Baghdad. “Having rival parties seated at the same table is an important step in this direction.”

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and Jordanian King Abdullah II arrived to participate, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron.

France co-hosted the meeting, which is expected to discuss a potentially devastating regional water crisis, the war in Yemen and the grave economic and political situation in Lebanon that has brought the country to the point of collapse. .

Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani arrived in Baghdad for the summit and was greeted by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi at the airport. It was the Qatari leader’s first official visit to Iraq.

The meeting is an opportunity for al-Kadhimi to showcase his recent efforts to portray Iraq as a neutral mediator in the region’s crises and re-engage with the world after decades of conflict.

Iraq is seeking to play a “unifying role” to deal with the crises shaking the region, according to sources close to al-Kadhimi.

Iraqi special forces have deployed in Baghdad, especially around the Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and is the seat of Iraqi government.

The high-level summit meeting in Baghdad is a major boost for Iraq and its senior leaders, sending a message of Arab solidarity with the country, which has been increasingly drawn into Iran’s orbit in recent years. years.

The country had been largely shunned by Arab rulers in recent decades due to security concerns amid back-to-back wars and internal unrest, with its airport frequently being rocket attacked by insurgents.

Saudi-Iranian relaxation?

Earlier this year, Iraq hosted several rounds of direct talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with mid-level officials discussing issues related to Yemen and Lebanon. The talks signaled a possible de-escalation after years of animosity that often spilled over to neighboring countries and at least one still raging war in Yemen.

The talks, while important, failed to achieve a breakthrough in relations given deep tensions, historic rivalry and continued sporadic attacks on Saudi oil targets by Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

However, there was talk of the possibility of Saudi Arabia reopening its embassy in Tehran, which was ransacked and closed following outrage over the execution of a prominent Saudi Shiite cleric in early 2016. .

Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab states such as the United Arab Emirates have called for any nuclear deal between world powers and Iran to address its ballistic missile program and support for militias as well.

An Iraqi government official told The Associated Press he expected Saudi and Iranian officials to hold talks on the sidelines of Saturday’s meetings. He said the aim was to bring opponents to the same table and create a political atmosphere to resolve outstanding issues.

Iranian officials have said they are focusing more on the outcome of talks in Vienna with Western powers over Iran’s nuclear program and international sanctions.

“The meeting in Iraq (…) focuses only on Iraq and how countries in the region can cooperate to help Iraq,” an Iranian official told Reuters news agency before Baghdad summit.

Energy offers

Mahmoud Abdelwahed of Al Jazeera, reporting from Baghdad, said the outcome of the summit will depend on the “closed session” to be held later on Saturday.

“Agreements or memoranda of understanding could be signed by stakeholders today,” Abdelwahed said.

“According to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, Iraq hopes to strengthen its ties with France, particularly in areas such as energy, oil, electricity, infrastructure,” he added.

Macron, following a meeting with al-Kadhimi, called Saturday’s meeting “historic”, showing Iraq’s return to stability after the ruinous war against the armed group ISIL (ISIL).

Meanwhile, an ISIL-affiliated group Islamic State of Khorasan Province ISKP (ISIS-K) on Thursday claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan that left dozens dead, including 13 members of the US military.

The attack has rekindled global concerns that the armed group, which seized entire swathes of Syria and Iraq before being routed from both countries, is reappearing in the region, analysts said. .

The explosion occurred in the final days of US-led evacuations from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover.

“These events show that it has become more urgent than ever to support the political process in Iraq and to involve its neighbors,” said a source close to Macron.

“A solution to security threats in the region, including Daesh [ISIL], depends on a stable, sovereign and prosperous Iraq.

A decade after the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled longtime former leader Saddam Hussein, ISIS in June 2014 announced a so-called “caliphate” over seized territory in Syria and Syria. Iraq, routing the ill-prepared Iraqi army without a fight and seizing nearly a third of the country.

France was part of a US-led coalition established to combat combatants from the armed group. Although Iraq declared ISIS territorially defeated in December 2017, it still retains dormant cells and continues to claim bloody attacks.

One of the deadliest was a July bombing that ravaged a crowded Baghdad market, killing at least 30 people on the eve of a key Muslim holiday.

ISIL makes “advances”

According to Colin Clarke, senior researcher at the Soufan Center, ISIL “still has access to tens of millions of dollars and will likely continue to rebuild its network across Iraq and Syria.”

“[Its] The main focus at the moment is to maintain the momentum of its affiliates until it can sufficiently rebuild its core in the Levant, ”said Clarke. “[ISIL] affiliates in sub-Saharan Africa and now in Afghanistan will have the opportunity to make progress in the coming year.

In July, President Joe Biden said US combat operations in Iraq would end this year, but US soldiers would continue to train, advise and support the country’s military in the fight against ISIL.

Washington currently has 2,500 troops deployed in Iraq.

Rasha al-Aqeedi, senior analyst at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy, said coalition forces believed Iraqi security personnel could prevent another advance by ISIL.

“Maybe they’re not ideal, but they’re good enough that America left the country thinking Iraq won’t live through 2014,” she said.

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