Farhad Aladdin
The Iraqi Prime Minister's Advisor for Foreign Affairs

Iraq’s Balanced Approach to Foreign Relations Continues

Ever since the Iraqi government assumed its responsibility in October last year, our administration has focused on extending the roots of Iraqi diplomacy across the region and beyond; practicing a policy of balance in foreign relations, and moving away from the policy of adversary. As stated in Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly on September 22, the goal of this policy is to “preserve the security and stability of the region, its progress and economic prosperity, in order to achieve the welfare of its people.”

From this standpoint, the Prime Minister’s visit to Moscow is consistent with the principle pursued by the Baghdad government, which is one of productive diplomacy.

Following the formation of the government, the Prime Minister has been keen to visit many European countries including Germany and France, and neighboring countries such as Jordan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Iran and Türkiye, as well as participating in the Arab-Chinese summit held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. His goal has been to strengthen relations and build partnerships around common interests with countries across the board, and it is with this approach that he is now responding to an official invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin. The visit to the Kremlin coincides with the Russian Energy Week Forum, where the Prime Minister will deliver an address as a keynote speaker.

Iraq has maintained bilateral relations with Russia for eight decades, and these relations span across many sectors, including economic and security. Russia wrote off 93% of Iraq's $12.9 billion debt in 2008, and a consortium of Russian oil giants successfully operate in Iraq today. Lukoil is developing the Western Qurna field and producing 480,000 barrels per day, with Gazprom operating in the Kurdistan Region and the Badra oil fields in the south, in addition to other companies working in the oil and electricity sector. The Russian president confirmed Russia's strong desire to participate in the implementation of strategic projects in Iraq, especially transport and energy projects, in a statement on 5 October.

Iraq is the second largest oil exporter in OPEC, and Russia co-chairs OPEC + with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The development of cooperation between Iraq and Russia is important for the global energy market, not least as Iraq cooperates with Russia and all members in setting the export levels that serves the stability of oil prices in global markets. This stability is a key factor in the growth of the global and local economy, successfully balancing the needs of exporting and consuming countries alike.

On the security front, over the past ten years, Russia has played an indisputable role in governance in Syria, and the prevention of the country falling into the hands of terrorists from ISIS militants and extremist takfiri parties. Iraq considers Syrian stability one of the pillars of Iraqi national security, as the emergence and expansion of ISIS came from Syria, and any security collapse in Syria will mean destabilizing the stability and security of Iraq.

Moving away from the policy of adversary means strengthening relationships between competing parties, in which Iraq is a balanced voice that can play the role of mediator if asked to do so. This role has already borne great fruit in the region after Iraq became a mediator and a solid bridge to bring Saudi-Iranian views closer, delivering this mediation to the extent of the agreement in Beijing to resume diplomatic relations earlier this year.

Baghdad has worked with its regional and Arab neighbors through joint economic projects such as the development road to link Iraq’s Al-Faw with the Turkish border, the railway line between Basra and Iran's Shalamjah, and the electrical interconnection with Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf states. The country is also looking forward to more economic cooperation with major players on the international stage, including Russia, which has economic interests with Iraq in the fields of oil, energy and agriculture.

Prime Minister Sudani's visit to the Russian capital Moscow comes in the midst of a war that has raged for more than a year and a half, devastating those directly impacted, and affecting the world in general – including the Middle East. Iraq permanently calls for the resolution of this war through peaceful means and dialogue, which will result in a "comprehensive, just and lasting peace," and this is what prompted Iraq to vote at the United Nations in February 2023 on a draft resolution calling for the withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine. Iraqis are more aware than most of the tragedy and pain of destructive war, having lived through decades of violence and instability.

The government in Baghdad believes that Iraq's balanced position on the war in Ukraine and its continuous call for dialogue is the only solution after nearly two years, as the whole world pays a price for the continuation of conflict. Ending wars is key to Iraq's prosperity and stability in the region, opening the door to focusing efforts on the economic development the government has sought since its formation in October last year.

Iraq does not have red lines or conflict with the countries it deals with, as official visits focus on the common interests between Iraq and the host country, and Iraq has strong and long-standing relations with these countries. For this reason, the upcoming Moscow visit will be followed by visits to Kyiv and Washington D.C., as well as other capitals to be announced in the Prime Minister's schedule of visits over the coming weeks and months.

Iraq’s foreign relations are following through on the promises made in the government program. The Prime Minister is developing relations with friendly and brotherly countries in the interests of the stability of Iraq, and transforming the country from a conflict zone to a place for the convergence of views. Iraq is moving in the right direction, for the right reasons, based on the principles of standing at a distance and protecting itself from the polarization of conflict in which it does not wish to be a party, but to which it can contribute to bringing competing views together and provide solutions.