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On Iraq's Return to the Arab Fold

On Iraq's Return to the Arab Fold

Saturday, 3 April, 2021 - 11:00

I believe the brotherly Iraqi people are full of warm sentiments today as Iraq re-embraces its Arab roots amid the changes sweeping through the country. One can only imagine the feelings of the genuine Arab people of Iraq who belong to their Arab nation and are part of its strategic depth.

Observers of the developments in Iraq can feel the real changes taking place, starting first with the push by the Iraqi people, in all their sects and components, to entrench their national unity by going beyond sectarian and confessional apprehensions and barriers in conjunction with increasingly vocal popular demands that Iran stop interfering with their country's affairs.

Iraq's path to recovery cannot be predicted or envisioned, but everyone can see its contours crystallizing and emerging. The government is fighting corruption, has confronted outlaws, retrieved money that had been stolen, and helped refugees return to their homes, not to mention its efforts monopolize armament to state institutions. All of this implies that we are facing a broad project, giving the state back its prestige, which is demonstrated by the determination to put things back in order.

Noticeably, the Iraqi leadership, despite the pressure it is facing and the exceptional circumstances, has made its presence loud, starting with improvement of Baghdad's ties with everyone, especially its neighbors, and its emphasis on Iraq's sovereignty and autonomous decision-making, which was apparent in the way it dealt with foreign issues, whether by concluding agreements, quelling tensions or engaging in dialogue.

To proceed with transparency, we see that the policies being pursued by Mr. Kadhimi, in addition to his declarations and positions, has demonstrated that he has a very patriotic and pragmatic mentality, which has changed the atmosphere and invoked optimistic assessments of a bright future, especially concerning its relations with Arab countries, particularly the Gulf states.

In an interesting and lengthy interview with this newspaper published a few weeks ago, Mr. Kadhimi told Asharq Al-Awsat Editor-in-Chief Ghassan Charbel that he refuses the use of Iraqi territories to deliver political messages, stressing that Iraq is not inclined to join axes or groupings. He further hailed the Iraqi-Saudi relations, saying: "With Saudi Arabia, we are bound with ties of fraternity, joint history, culture and constant interests." He also said that he was "satisfied with the development of relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, explaining the concept of the New Mashreq as being "based on prioritizing the common interests of regional countries and dispelling doubts and illusions."

In fact, all of this has been tangible. Last week, King Salman and Prime Minister Kadhimi spoke via video call during which they stressed the need to strengthen bilateral cooperation, and the Iraqi prime minister accepted the King's invitation to visit Saudi Arabia with enthusiasm.

Yesterday, Baghdad was in the heart of Riyadh, where Mr. Kadhimi was the guest of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, who greeted him with a brotherly and grandiose reception. Everyone could feel the warmth and optimism of the important visit made in appreciation of Saudi Arabia's support for Iraq and to send a message on Iraq's commitment to its Arab identity and that Riyadh and Baghdad reject any foreign interference in Arab affairs.

The visit fortified the region's security and stability and stressed the need to keep tensions and their causes at bay. Many agreements were signed as well, among them the establishment of a 3-billion-dollar joint Saudi Iraqi fund to invigorate Saudi investment in Iraq. The two sides agreed to support Iraq in cooperation with the international coalition to defeat ISIS, guarantee the security of the two countries border- this is important, as we are talking about up to 900 km. They are certain that terrorism is a common enemy, demanding that the two sides coordinate and exchange information. There is also a need for cooperation and constant monitoring to prevent any criminal activity including that of outlawed groups and networks smuggling arms and drugs. Thus, in my estimation, cooperation between Riyadh and Baghdad is a pressing need. Iraq's security is Saudi Arabia's security and vice versa, and Iraq's recovery has become a strategic necessity for regional stability.

Here, we won't forget to mention the New Mashreq project for cooperation between Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt. It is a message that reflects the genuine Arab national identity and an initiative for joint development that serves these countries' interests while simultaneously containing regional powers' influence and protecting Arab national security. However, the primary concern is still reinvigorating the Arab spirit that hovers over Baghdad's majestic skies, where Arabism, history, and glory can be found.

The Iraqi leadership has taken great strides in solidifying its Arab relations and overcoming the failures of the past, though many opposing parties and people in Iraq are not keen on this approach because they believe that this represents a threat to the Iranian interests in Iraq. Regardless, Baghdad's interest is in cooperating with its Arab brothers, as this is more important and enduring. This will serve its people and protect the Arabs' interests. Kadhimi's visit to Riyadh reflected an atmosphere of optimism and gave indications of good things to come. The meeting was not limited exclusively to bilateral cooperation between the two countries. Indeed, it laid the foundation for the backbone of a new Arab regional order capable of facing foreign meddling and plots being hatched in our region.

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