Published on :
The French head of state will attend the regional conference which opens on Saturday in Baghdad. The fate of Afghanistan should be at the center of concerns following the Taliban’s rise to power and the return to center stage of the Islamic State (IS) organization.
The fate of Afghanistan at the center of concerns. The arrival of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan and the return to the forefront of the Islamic State (IS) group after a bloody attack in Kabul will be the subject of all attention at the regional conference which opens on Saturday, August 28. in Baghdad.
With this regional conference, Iraq intends to “defuse” the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, according to an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Moustafa al-Kazimi.
Emmanuel Macron expected
In particular, French President Emmanuel Macron, the Iranian and Saudi Foreign Ministers, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and King Abdullah II of Jordan are expected. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been invited, but his presence is not confirmed.
But the discussions are expected to extend beyond the framework of the Middle East, after the Taliban seizure of power in Afghanistan and the attack on Thursday at Kabul airport carried out by a branch of ISIS, which killed dozens of people including 13 American soldiers.
President Macron, for his part, wants to show that France retains a role in the region, continues the fight against terrorism and supports the mediation efforts of Iraq, “a pivotal country, essential to the stability of the Middle East”, explains the Elysee.
He will travel to Iraqi Kurdistan on Sunday, where he will salute the struggle of the Kurds against ISIS, then to Mosul, a symbol of victory against the radical group that occupied it from 2014 to 2017.
The situation in Iraq, however, is different from that in Afghanistan. The army fought four years ago with the international coalition against ISIS, before declaring “victory” at the end of 2017.
Four years later, jihadist cells continue to carry out occasional attacks. The latest major suicide bombing claimed by ISIS killed more than 30 people in Baghdad in July.
ISIS “still has tens of millions of dollars at its disposal and it will undoubtedly continue to restore its networks in Iraq and Syria,” notes Colin Clarke, research director of the Soufan Center, a New York-based geopolitics think tank .
IS is “the archenemy” of the Taliban, explains Rasha al-Aqeedi, a researcher at the Newlines Institute in the United States, but their “victory” in Afghanistan could “galvanize” ISIS, prompting it to “show that it is still very present “in Iraq.
Some 2,500 American troops are still deployed in Iraq. They will officially confine themselves to a role of “advisers” to the Iraqi security forces from 2022.
And for Rasha al-Aqeedi, if the level of the Iraqi army “is not ideal”, “the Americans think that this is enough for them to be able to leave Iraq in the long term without fear that the country will relive what it is. ‘it happened in 2014 “, during the rout of the Iraqi soldiers against the jihadists.
Then, Iraq has many and very controversial pro-Iran paramilitary factions grouped together in Hachd al-Chaabi, an organization created to support the army in its fight against ISIS. Since then, Hachd al-Chaabi has been integrated into the state, but its critics accuse it of responding only to Tehran and of murdering and kidnapping anti-power activists.
Iraq’s relations with its big Iranian neighbor should also be discussed during the conference on Saturday, as well as the tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.
Baghdad has already hosted closed-door meetings between representatives of the two regional powers in recent months. Now, the goal for Iraq is to move from the status of “messenger” to that of “leader”, notes the researcher Renad Mansour of Chatham House.