On Saturday, Iraq will host a conference on “cooperation and partnership”, the most prominent of which is French President Emmanuel Macron, and includes a number of regional countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, and is expected to be overshadowed by developments in Afghanistan.
Through the conference, Iraq hopes to obtain support to restore security and economic stability and enhance its regional role.
It is likely that the talks will revolve around the rapid developments in Afghanistan, the Taliban’s control of the country, and the emergence of the Islamic State, which on Thursday adopted an attack on Kabul Airport, which reinforces fears of a resurgence of its influence, after it was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria in 2018 with the support of a coalition International led by the United States.
The suicide bombing at Kabul airport resulted in dozens of deaths, including 13 American soldiers.
The “ISIS in Khorasan” claimed the attack, which occurred less than two weeks after the Taliban fighters took control of the country. Many fear that ISIS will take advantage of the collapse of the Afghan state to fill voids.
Although the Taliban and ISIS are “offensive”, Rasha Al-Aqidi, a researcher at the New Lines Center for Research in the United States, believes that the movement’s “progress” in Afghanistan may “motivate” the organization to prove that it “still exists” in Iraq.
With the end of the “combat mission” of the United States, which maintains about 2,500 military personnel in Iraq, looming, with their mission becoming advisory only by the end of the year, Baghdad still faces a number of security challenges.
The Islamic State is still able to launch attacks, albeit to a limited extent, despite the passage of four years since its defeat, through cells that are still scattered in remote and desert areas, such as the attack that killed 30 people in the Shiite neighborhood of Sadr City in the capital last month.
These “events”, according to the French president’s surroundings, show that “supporting the ongoing political process in Iraq and involving the neighbors in it is more urgent than ever, because, without a stable and prosperous Iraq, there will be no solutions to the security threats in the region.”
A pivotal role
Colin Clark, director of the Soufan Research Center in New York, explains that ISIS “still has tens of millions of dollars and is undoubtedly capable of forming networks in Iraq and Syria.”
It is the second visit of the French President to Iraq in less than a year.
Eight months before the French presidential elections, for which he has not yet officially announced his candidacy, the French president probably wants, through his two-day visit, to consolidate his position on the international map.
An adviser at the Elysee Palace said that Macron wants to prove that France still maintains a role in the region and continues to fight terrorism, and supports the efforts of Iraq, “this pivotal… and essential, country in achieving stability in the Middle East.”
On Sunday, Macron will visit Iraqi Kurdistan, then Mosul, which was seen as the “capital of the ISIS caliphate” declared by ISIS over large parts of Syria and Iraq.
The visit takes place amid tight security arrangements.
“As in the Sahel region, it concerns our surroundings and our national security,” the French official said. “France is determined to continue this fight in Iraq and beyond to avoid a possible resurgence of the Islamic State.” Paris contributes about 600 soldiers within the framework of the international coalition in Iraq.
On the other hand, while Baghdad says that the conference does not aim to discuss “controversial issues” in the region, but rather seeks through it to “defuse tension” between Tehran and Riyadh, which have cut diplomatic relations since 2016, according to an advisor to Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.
In recent months, Baghdad hosted closed-door meetings between representatives of the two regional powers. According to Renad Mansour, a researcher at Chatham House, it seeks to transform the “Al-Mersal” website into a “motor” for talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia. In April this year, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin-Salman expressed his intentions to solve relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The two countries are scheduled to be represented by their foreign ministers at the conference, which will also include Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Jordanian King Abdullah II. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also invited to participate, but his attendance has not yet been confirmed. Qatar, the UAE and Kuwait also received invitations to participate.
Iraq-Iran relationship at Baghdad Summit
Iraq’s relationship with Iran will be discussed at the conference, as it exercises influence over a number of factions affiliated with the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, which was founded in 2014 to fight the Islamic State, and since then became part of the official security forces, but it is accused of being behind the assassination and kidnapping of a number of activists. opponents of the system.
In a country that is still suffering from a social and economic crisis, a high unemployment rate, a shortage of energy and electricity, and a need for investments in several areas, especially the infrastructure that has been exhausted by decades of wars, is reflected in the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Interior, Nizar Al-Khairallah, in a recent press conference, that the conference It will address issues of “cooperation and economic integration between Iraq and its partners and brothers”.
The conference takes place less than two months before the Iraqi legislative elections.
Al-Khairallah says that “the government’s direction in the field of investment and the serious desire to build important economic networks with the countries of the region constitutes one of the main objectives of the conference.” Its discussion may reflect positively on Al-Kadhimi, who is not a candidate for a parliamentary seat, but is seeking to remain in the prime ministership.