The Iraqi government is playing a role in “bringing opposites together and creating a situation that promotes dialogue” among neighboring countries, especially Arab Gulf states, Türkiye, and Iran, said Iraqi Foreign Minister Fuad Hussein in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of the 77th UN General Assembly in New York.
Hussein emphasized that Saudi Arabia plays a vital role on the Gulf, regional, Arab, Islamic, and international levels. He also voiced his belief that if the Kingdom’s relationship with Iran improves, its role will “be bigger and stronger.”
The top Iraqi diplomat hoped that dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Iran would move from the security to the diplomatic level.
Hussein revealed that Baghdad is mediating between the US and Iran because it is in Iraq’s interest to help the two parties in returning to the 2015 nuclear deal. He added that the remaining dispute between Washington and Tehran revolves around “the interdependence between the agreement and solving some problems outside of the deal.”
The minister stressed that the “6 + 4 group,” which includes Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Yemen, is not against Iran.
Instead, the “cooperation group” tackles economic and security fields and energy security.
Speaking on Iraq’s present role in bringing the views of various Arab countries closer to other countries, Hussein said: “We play a leading role in the region in bringing together opposites and in creating a dialogue atmosphere rather than going to conflicts.”
“We support dialogue,” affirmed Hussein.
“But when we talk about creating a dialogue situation, the conditions must also be prepared, and there must be mutual recognition between the parties,” explained Hussein, adding that Iraqi foreign policy prioritizes neighboring countries.
Saudi Arabia on Arab, Islamic and int'l levels
When asked about the relationship he shares with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Hussein pointed out that Iraqi diplomacy is keen on holding personal meetings.
“We have good personal relations with all the ministers of the Gulf states, as well as with the foreign ministers of neighboring countries, such as Iran and Türkiye,” said Hussein.
“Our relations are strong, and we can communicate at any time with any minister,” he stressed, adding that most foreign ministers contact Iraq when they are facing trouble with Iran and Türkiye.
“We do our due diligence and don’t announce it,” explained Hussein.
On enhancing the relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Hussein started by noting that the Kingdom plays a significant role in the Gulf, regional, Arab, Islamic, and international environments.
“If the relationship between the Kingdom and neighboring Iran improves, I think that this role will be bigger and stronger.”
Hussein explained that Iraq is keen on maintaining a healthy environment in the region and that any tension between surrounding countries reflects negatively on its situation.
“Whenever there is a good situation and normal relations between these countries, this will positively affect the internal Iraqi situation,” said Hussein.
As for progress on bringing views closer, the FM remarked that concerned countries must comment on the matter because it involves bilateral relations.
According to the minister, discussions between Riyadh, Tehran and Baghdad have started to tackle ways to raise the level of dialogue from a military aspect to a diplomatic one. They have already held five rounds of talks.
“If matters were agreed upon, this would mean that the Saudi-Iranian dialogue in Baghdad would be made public.”
“We hope to reach this stage. We are working in this direction,” confirmed Hussein.
Commenting on complaints regarding Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of Iraq, Hussein said: “This is a bilateral issue between Iraq and Iran.”
Mediating between the US and Iran
Speaking about Iraq’s position on Iran’s contentious nuclear deal, Hussein said: “Iraq's position is clear. We are in favor of reaching an agreement on the nuclear program. We support the Vienna talks.”
“During the last two years, we have been in constant contact between Washington and Tehran, even during elections,” revealed Hussein, stressing that his country is helping both parties.
“The goal of Iraqi policy in this field is to reach an agreement between Iran and the US.”
As to why Iraq is seeking Iranian-American agreement, Hussein explained that that his country is doing so because of the issue’s Arab dimension and the repercussions it could lead to if a deal is not reached.
“Creating another crisis while we have many crises directly affects the region,” said Hussein.
“Second, because of the strong relations between Baghdad and Washington, and the strong relations with neighboring Iran, any tension between the two parties will affect Iraq politically.”
“It is in the Iraqi interest to help the two parties reach a conclusion.”
“I had a meeting (last week) with Iranian Foreign Minister (Hossein Amir) Abdollahian and before that with some American officials to discuss the issue,” revealed Hussein.
“We are still trying to bring the two sides closer together. But there are problems. The issue is that there is a correlation between the agreement and the solution of some problems outside the deal,” he added.
“These problems have started to emerge recently, but we are still in dialogue with the two parties and we will see what unfolds,” noted Hussein, expressing relief that both parties trust Iraq.
“We discuss the Iranian position with the American side, we discuss the American position with the Iranian side, and we try to find ways to reach understandings.”
Hussein refrained from responding to a question on whether he believes that a US-Iranian agreement could be reached and repeated that he wishes for a deal to come through.