Gulf states, West try to limit Iranian influence in Iraq

Regional and international (EU, UN, AL OIC GCC)) representatives met yesterday at the Dead Sea, Jordan, for the second Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership. Close to Iran, Iraq’s new prime minister seeks balanced relations with everyone. Iran’s foreign minister talks about friendship with others, but slams those who fuel protests in his country following the death of Mahsa Amini.

Amman (AsiaNews) – The second Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership was held yesterday at the Dead Sea, Jordan.

In its final communiqué, participants agreed to carry forward the results of the first session of the conference, pledging to work with Iraq, supporting its security, stability, sovereignty and democratic and constitutional development.  They also backed Iraq’s efforts to use dialogue as a way to solve regional crises, many urging it to loosen its ties with Iran.

Hosted by King Abdallah, the summit saw the participation of French President Emmanuel Macron, Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammad Shia'a al Sudani and representatives of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, as well as Iran.

Also present were the secretary general of the Arab League, the secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and officials from the United Nations, the Organisation of the Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the European Union.

Yesterday's session was a follow-up to the first one held in August 2021 in the Iraqi capital, sponsored by France and Iraq.

The meeting was also one of the first major international outings for Iraq’s new prime minister, Muhammad Shia'a al Sudani, who took office in October after more than a year of political stalemate. He is considered to be closer to Iran than his predecessor Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

In his address, Mr Sudani stressed “Iraq’s keenness to build balanced relations with its neighbours,” shying away from alignments and escalation. He slammed anyone trying to undermine Iraq’s sovereignty and interfere in its domestic affairs.

The other participants reiterated their support for Iraq, including its fight against terrorism, a topical issue following recent attacks by the Islamic State group.

The press release also stressed the need to support “Iraq’s efforts to achieve comprehensive development, and working with it to build economic integration, by cooperating across a multitude of sectors, including energy, water, electric connectivity, food and health security, transportation, infrastructure, and climate action.”

The communiqué “highlighted the importance of the trilateral cooperation framework between Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq,” which includes “electric connectivity projects.” It also underlines the importance of cooperation between the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman) and Iraq.

Moreover, holding the conference in Jordan reflects the desire to support Iraq's central role in “political, economic and security partnerships”, end tensions, and build up “joint cooperation and mutual interests”.

Iranian Foreign Minister Hussein Amir-Abdollahian also attended the meeting; in his address, he stressed that cooperation was not an option, but an urgency.

Iran’s top diplomat noted that security is “not something that can be imported or bought,” and that the age of wrong policies is over.

He also spoke of Iran’s nuclear programme, reiterating its "peaceful" nature, and criticised those who fuel internal protests (linked to the death of Mahsa Amini). He also renewed the call for dialogue among Gulf states to create trust and strengthen friendship.

For now these are but words, as divisions and opposing objectives remain, deepening regional cleavages.