In Baghdad, Saturday August 28, all eyes will be on the representatives from Iran and Saudi Arabia. After discussions held in the greatest secrecy in the Iraqi capital since April, the two rival powers will meet at the “conference of Iraq’s neighbors” organized by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Tehran will be represented by the new foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian. Saudi Arabia’s level of participation, like Turkey’s, had still not been disclosed on Friday morning. On the other hand, the Egyptian President and King Abdullah II of Jordan, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, have already confirmed their presence at this Iraqi diplomatic initiative dedicated to supporting the stability of the host country and easing tensions in the Middle -East and regional economic integration.
Observers do not expect a breakthrough in Iranian-Saudi talks or in regional crises (Lebanon, Yemen). However, notes a foreign diplomat, “The fact that the conference is taking place and that the participation is at such a high level is already a success. This was not taken for granted in the context of regional tensions, and as the Vienna negotiations [sur le nucléaire iranien] do not succeed ”.
Syria was not invited due to hostility from France and the Gulf States. Baghdad, however, dispatched Falah Al-Fayyad, the head of national security, to Damascus to deliver a letter to President Bashar Al-Assad, reiterating the assurance that Syria remains a key partner for Iraq.
The fall of Kabul in the hands of the Taliban and the debacle caused by the American withdrawal risk to revive the discussions. In the context of American military disengagement from the Middle East, and increased questions about Washington’s desire to continue to play the role of guarantor of regional security, the forces present are increasing the number of dialogue initiatives. The United States – which under Trump reduced its commitment to Iraq to 2,500 troops – should be represented at a modest level. “The fight against the Islamic State requires the maintenance of the United States”, we consider at the Elysee, to cut short any parallel with Afghanistan.
The Iraqi internal agenda has certainly played a role in Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s plan to invite this regional conference to the heart of the summer. He hopes to be able to run for a second term after the early parliamentary elections on 10 October. His initiative also testifies to the efforts he has led since taking up his post in May 2020 to impose Iraq as a leading regional player: mediation between Tehran and Riyadh, rapprochement with the Gulf powers and integration projects. economic with Egypt and Jordan as part of its “New East” vision.
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