Iraq returns to its Arab roots, quashes Iran’s jugglery by New Levant project

Firas Elias

Translated by Shaimaa Behery

This article sheds the light on:

  • The significance of the Arab depth in Iraq’s foreign policy in the future.
  • The Arab side of Iraq versus the Shi’ite one, can Kadhimiresist Iran’s ploys?
  • The Shiite revival process portends the formation of a new Middle East based on the religious division between Shiites and Sunnis.
  • The Egyptian role can be deemed as a salvation chance in front of Iraq to escape the domination of Iran and the Shiite crescent.

Basically, New Levant project is one of the principal outcomes that have emerged following the visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Mostafa al-Khadimi to Washington last week. The visit sparked debates about its effect on the future of the Iraqi state and institutions, especially amid its current economic, security and health problems, over and above that, Iraq is still an arena of conflict between the United States and Iran.

It is no secret that founding a new model of Iraq on both internal and external levels is an overarching goal for al-Kadhimi since he assumed his office. In fact, no previous prime minister could tackle such approach before October 2019, the date when protestserupted in Baghdad and then in other cities in south Iraq. Perhaps, grassroots lobbying against the pro-Iran political forces and militias encouraged Kadhimi to gradually secede from the Iranian political domination. Such Iranian dominance by a way or another designed all the Iraqi cabinetsformed after 2003.

-The beginning was with the Shiite Crescent

After invasion of Iraq in 2003, many doubts were spinning around the Shiite geopolitics that Iran made use ofas the most powerful Shiite state in the Islamic world to reinforce its national goals and interests. After that, other political facts emerged such as the Shiite arrival to the rule in Iraq in 2003, the victory of Hamas movement in the elections of the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006 and the Israeli waragainst Lebanon in the same year. All these occurrences deeply changed the political situation in the Middle East as the political empowerment for Shiites resulted in a Shiite cross-border bloc and gave a strong push for the Iranian foreign policy in the Arab world.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II addressed such geopolitical situation when he said that the main consequence of the war against Iraq is the formation of a Shiite geography under Iranian control. He also said that influence of the pro-Iran parties on the new Iraqi government would help the emergence of a new crescent of parties and governments dominated by Shiites in the Arab world, which threats the stability of the balance of power between Sunnis and Shiites. The Jordanian King also believed that this geopolitical image will stand as a new challenge for the interests of the US and its allies, which urges the strategic planners in the world to be aware of this potentiality.

Given the furtherance of the geopolitical Shiite situation against the Sunni geopolitical one and mounted fears from the increasing Iranian power, we can say that the Shiite revival process was a presage of a new Middle East evolution based on religioussegmentation between the Sunnis and Shiites. This is because the international divisiveness that took over the political scene during the cold war may be reflected again in the Islamic worldin away makes us in front of two worlds, Sunni and Shiite. The main objective of the US is to provide a crescent of crisis on bothpolitical and geographic levels. Such crisisstarts from Iran, includes Iraq and Syria and ends with the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Palestine. This can be called as the biggest energetic geopolitics that extends from the Strait of Hormuz to the Caspian Sea and then expands to control the entire Islamic world.

The New Levant projectraised by Iraq’s Kadhimi in the summit held in Amman on August 25th 2020 andattended by Jordan’s Abdullah II and Egypt’s Sisi can bedeemedas one of the most prominent movements of Kadhimi to edit the typical image of Iraq that was taken during  last years. Before, Iraq didn’t have a clear identity in its foreign policy.

On the other hand, Iraqi ties with Egypt mark a turning point in the regional balances map. This map suffered sort of disorder and imbalance in away led to full tendency to Iran and turkey. Still, Iraq and Egypt can revive a new balanced status in the region due to their historical weight and civilizational depth despite their current unstable reality.

Underlining the Arab roots of Iraq through the gate of the NewLevant project can be a cornerstone in the reform plan adopted by Kadhimi. Suggesting a project with economic trait rather than security one may assure allies of Iran who tried by all means to uproot Iraq from its Arab background. This projectcan be a successful regional and economic alternative to the Shiite crescent that Iran has been trying to link Iraq with on the security and political levels under the theme of “Axis of Resistance”.

Considering the diversificationin the foreign Iraqi policy in away serves its interests on security and political levels is so important in the current time especially when it is related to Turkey and Iran who are currently living big problems with the Arabenvironment. In fact, Iraq suffered big challenges in the contexts of dealing with these two neighbors; thus, the new Levantproject will necessarily get the geopolitical power back to Iraq in a way helping Iraq to lobby them.

Iraq is the turkey’s gate to the red sea and Iran’s gate to the Mediterranean Sea. Hence, reviving the close ties with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia will give it back its geopolitical weight even in the context of its relation with Iran and turkey.  Indeed, the New Levant project can be considered a strike to the Shiite crescent led by Iran especially if Iraq is an important part of it.

The final statement of the summit that brought together the leaders of Iraq, Egypt and Jordan came to shed the light on the current worries the three states are facing, specifically files of combating terrorism and regional security affairs. In this regard, the statement indicated that “Jordan and Egypt stand with Iraq in the face of terrorism and protect its sovereignty against any foreign interference and any violations to its borders”. The statement also emphasized the necessity of Iraq’s interaction with the Arab and regional surroundings in order to strengthen Arab and Iraqi national security.

Touching on the Nile water problem that is besetting Egypt currently due to the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the statement stressed that Egyptian water security “is an integral part of Arab national security, ”. Meanwhile, the leaders of the three countries underlined the need to reach an agreement that guarantees the right of Egypt and Sudan in water. The three leaders also highlighted the centrality of the Palestinian issue, and the need to achieve a comprehensive and fair peace that is based on the two-state solution, which guarantees the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the June 4, 1967 lines, taking East Jerusalem as its capital.

Analyzing Al-Kadhimi’s ambitions from this summit, it is clear that Iraq has an opportunity of salvation, in other words, opportunityto get rid of the current hard circumstances. Obviously, there are many indicators, the most important of which are the Iraqi street demands urging quick reform and anti—corruption policies, the hard situation that Iran currently living and challenges of the post-Corona world. Such new conditions may enable Iraq to get out from its longer-term hardships and then move through it. Holding early elections next June may mark a real inauguration of the new Iraq, especially if the Iraqi government manages to provide a transparent electoral environment, away from the power of weapons and foreign conflicts.

Considering the Arab depth is very essential step in Iraq’s future foreign plan, if Iraq really wants to set its regional situation at least.No doubt,there is an Arab need for Iraq’s role in Arab issues;similarly, Iraq needs the Arab assistance in its issues. Actually, The Arab absence from Iraq’s arenagave the opportunity to other regional states such as Turkey and Iran to fill the vacuum politically and economically. Accordingly,Kadhimi is looking forward to the New Levant project as a cornerstone in an establishment of a regional economicentanglement away from the sectarian sensitivities that Iran and Turkey have exploited. This will restore balance to the Iraqi internal arena and inside the Iraqi streets where people calling for reform and denouncing Iranian roles and Turkish interventions that dwarf the concept of sovereignty in Iraq.


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