Restored Position: What Made Iraq Recent Station to Foreign Diplomats?
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Restored Position: What Made Iraq Recent Station to Foreign Diplomats?

Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamad Javad Zarif was among the senior officials arriving in Iraq, where he visited during five days of his tour Baghdad, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Karbala, and Najaf. The trip was the longest in Zarif's experience as a foreign minister. In addition to Zarif, the French Foreign Minister Jean Yves Le Drian, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also visited Baghdad within the capital’s 10 busy political days. Also, Ahmad Jarba, a prominent leader of the Syrian opposition and the head of Syria’s Al-Ghad (Tomorrow) Movement, visited Baghdad last Saturday night, announcing the opposition readiness to send a delegation to Damascus to talk to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The political arrivals pushed some analysts to call Iraq of past 10 days the “diplomatic pavilion”, a label given and boosted due to the closeness to neighboring Iran. Iraq’s improved regional and international role Over the past few years, Iraq, along with Syria, has been the flashpoint of the crisis in West Asia and even the world. Now after the obliteration of the self-proclaimed caliphate championed by ISIS terrorist group in Iraq, the regional and Western actors are trying to pursue their interests in the region through Baghdad, and even Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region. On the one hand, the US struggles to, using Iraq, impair the growing regional power of Iran. The European countries, mainly France as the political leader of the European Union, intend to play a major role in political, military, and economical equations in the post-ISIS Iraq. The regional Arab states, on the other side, have the conviction that they need to improve their diplomatic ties to Baghdad for the good of their regional interests. In fact, in the new regional order, amid the defeat of the ethno-sectarian and terrorist plots of opponents of the strategic alliance between Baghdad and Tehran, Iraq makes its way to more stability, putting to show the power to play an effective role in the regional equations. Iraq is now a setting for a fierce competition for setting up a regional alliance and access to the nation’s energy resources. This displays the fact that today’s Iraq is even more significant than the pre-2014 period, when ISIS terrorist group rose and sweepingly seized a number of Iraqi cities. Contrary to the severely ideological Iraq under Saddam Hussein, today’s Iraq has kept itself away from showing dependence on and submission to the West similar to the regional Arab countries. Instead, it adopted a policy consistent to the independent countries like Iran. Naturally, in the present conditions, bolstered cultural, political, and economic bond of Iran and Iraq are unfavorable to the rivals of the Iran-led Axis of Resistance. Closeness to Iran motivated Trump administration to put the heaviest pressure on Iraq among the other regional states amid a campaign of promotion of anti-Iranian sanctions. Pressing Iraq to join the anti-Tehran efforts is the key goal took Pompeo to Iraq. Iraq technocrat government seeks state’s improved role On the other side, we should not disregard the efforts by technocrat government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to improve Iraq’s political position in the region. The currently serving Iraqi cabinet is one of the most pragmatist ones in the post-Saddam Iraq looking at expansion of relations with other countries as a major foreign policy goal. The same policy has taken the Iraqi President Barham Salih to lead political tours while his colleagues back in Baghdad were hosting their guests from at least four countries. Within the first 100 days of his presidency, Salih has made 7 foreign visits, unprecedented in the country’s presidential experience. On January 9, Salih traveled to Qatar, a regional state he visited after trips to Kuwait, the UAE, Jordan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The clearest message of the visits was that the important Muslim country wants to restore its regional and international role. Recent foreign trips to Baghdad appeared to prove that the new Iraqi leadership has so far acted successfully, reclaiming Baghdad mediatory status in the regional crises. The mediatory role became apparent when a Syrian opposition delegation visited Baghdad and when the Iraqi politicians highlighted the need for Syria return to the Arab League. The Arab League suspended Damascus shortly after the foreign-backed home terrorist war against Syria started in 2011. The Syrian opposition visit indicated that despite Baghdad’s strong backing to Damascus and President Assad, some Syrian opposition factions find Iraq a corridor through which they can make their way to the Syrian politics. Efforts to crack Iran-Iraq bonds fail  What is growing along the Iraqi regional role rise is Washington’s effort to sow division between Tehran and Baghdad. This was clear during Pompeo's visit to Iraq. But to the Americans frustration, Baghdad has not changed its friendly behavior towards Tehran. Beside their strategic relations, the two neighbors are in a close relationship due to bilaterally overlapping energy needs and cultural bonds. No matter what kind of government is formed in Iraq, the Arab country remains close to Iran. The bilateral alliance against ISIS, the largest and most heavily foreign-backed terrorist group ever, even deepened the already-strong Iraqi-Iranian relations. Iran’s position in Iraq, mainly its closeness to almost all political influencers, makes it impossible for the US, and Saudi Arabia, to create division between the two neighbors. Having in mind that Iran’s socio-cultural position in Iraq is strong, in the short run, the US-Saudi alliance cannot cut the Iranian influence. Washington, according to the past experiences, is not interested in spending more to thwart Tehran’s Iraq sway. Over the past 15 years, Americans went to great lengths to separate Iraq from Iran, only to find their efforts going in vain. A set of Iraqi moves, including supporting Syria, mobilizing pro-Iranian popular groups, formally dubbed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), in opposition to ISIS, and expressing open opposition to the anti-Iranian embargo, very apparently exhibit marriage of Iraqi stances to Iran’s.   

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