The Baghdad conference: objectives and outcomes

2021/09/12 | Note, political, top news

Strategic Council Online-Opinion: On 28 August 2021, Baghdad was host to one of the most important regional meetings entitled the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership. Guests participating in this one-day meeting included high-ranking officials from influential Arab and non-Arab states. The Baghdad conference was highly significant from two respects: first, the level and arrangement of participants that have deep differences bilaterally, trilaterally and on many aspects, second, the goals which were pursued in the meeting at domestic, regional and international levels. Barsam Mohammadi—International issues analyst

Participating members

French President Emanuel Macron, Egyptian President Abdolfattah Sisi, King Abdollah from Jordan, Qatari Emit Sheikh Tamim bin Hamed al-Thani, Kuwait Prime Minister Sabah Khalid al-Sabah, Dubai Emir Mohammad bin Rashed al-Maktum, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud participated in the Baghdad meeting as state dignitaries. In addition, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit and ambassadors of the US, UK, Russia and China to Iraq were also in attendance.

Even though the Iraqi government and even the French president made a lot of efforts to have the participation at the highest level of Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia in this meeting, these three countries preferred for some reasons to send their foreign ministers to Baghdad. Moreover, the US government had promised the Iraqi government to have a high presence in Baghdad conference. However, the US send the American ambassador instead.

Permanent members of the UN Security Council and members of the G20 group had been invited to the Baghdad conference. Syria which is one of the main Arab countries of the region had not been invited to the meeting as it has not yet returned to the Arab League. Even through the presence of some countries were in lower levels and the absence of some countries did not create any obstacle for holding the Baghdad meeting, its effectiveness was remarkably diminished.

Objectives and programs

The government of Iraq which was the main host and organizer of the Baghdad meeting was pursuing specifically three objectives as following:

  • The follow up of economic plans was top on the agenda of the objectives and programs of the Iraqi government in Baghdad conference. This is the same strategic point emphasized on by Nazar al-Kheirollah, the senior deputy minister of foreign affairs of Iraq and chair of the organizing committee of this regional meeting. Talking to foreign media chiefs who had traveled to Baghdad to cover the meeting, he said that the Baghdad conference is pursuing economic goals more than any other thing and does not cover issues of difference as countries invited to this conference have good experience in economy, industry and investment and Iraq is seeking to attract foreign investment in its agriculture and industry sectors. Iraq has the biggest investment opportunities in the region and participation of regional countries in this conference would lead more than any other thing to stronger economic relations with Iraq and for this reason, the Baghdad conference is themed for cooperation and partnership. Iraq is trying to build bridges between the countries of the region in order to realize economic prosperity and stability.
  • The settlement of regional conflicts and differences: Even though the spokesperson of the Baghdad conference had announced that this meeting would not deal with issues of difference among the participants, this could not prevent political talks and discussions. A review of the speeches of participants in the meeting indicates that without attention to the mechanisms of creation of security and political stability, economic objectives and prospects are hard to reach. Iraq considers itself as of the main and pivotal countries of the region which has adopted the policy of open regional doors especially during the past one year and after Mostafa al-Kazemi came into power. Iraq has made a lot of efforts to attain domestic security and stability which are closely tied to regional security and stability. Al-Kazemi pursues domestic political goals in holding such meetings as he seeks to boost its political weight and face as we are approaching the parliamentary elections. Of course, it should be emphasized that the policy of open doors is not unprecedented and during Haydar al-Ibadi and Adel Abdulmahdi, a similar policy was pursued by Iraq. From the viewpoint of Baghdad, balanced relations with all the countries and the special geographical location of Iraq would cause this country to remain an influential piece in negotiations and a center of convergence of regional interests. It should be however highlighted that given its special geographical position, Iraq has turned in various occasions to one of the main centers of conflict in the region. That in recent months, the government of Iraq and al-Kazemi himself made remarkable efforts to advance talks between Riyadh and Tehran, it indicates that Iraqi government authorities have well understood this reality that without resolving regional conflicts which have also affected Iraq, they cannot attain necessary stability and security in Iraq and save the country from the present difficult conditions in economic terms and welfare and social services.
  • From long time ago. Baghdad has been influential in the region and the Muslim world as it enjoys special weight and significance. Baghdad has been one of the sides of major developments in the Muslim and Arab worlds in the past 14 centuries. Despite such a high status and power in the past, Baghdad in the past century has become affected by outside factors and its power has diminished. On some periods in the past, Baghdad was omitted from regional equations and this ancient nation has turned into a place of struggle and conflict front for regional and trans-regional players. From this viewpoint, the Baghdad conference could be considered as an effort to revive Iraq’s former status, strength and position. From the viewpoint of Iraqi authorities, it would be impossible to attain this goal and gain sort of leadership in the Arab world unless a mechanism is worked out through which conflict and differences of regional and trans-regional players in the region, which have also spread to Iraq, are settled and resolved and this country retrieves its former Arab political status. The recent conference in Baghdad is one such mechanism sought by Iraqi authorities. Mostafa al-Kazemi emphasized this issue in the meeting when he said we are committed before the nation to return Iraq to its former status in playing pioneer roles.

Conclusion

The Baghdad conference was held within the framework of improving the role and influence of Iraq in the equations of the region and the Arab world. Even though some experts and analysts believe that the Baghdad meeting was fruitless and lacked any political and security and other achievements, it is rather soon to reach conclusion about the impacts and outcomes of the Baghdad meeting. The depth and range of regional differences, tensions and conflicts are so much high that cannot be resolved in one conference and regional gathering. However, holding such meetings can definitely open space for peaceful co-existence and create opportunities for settling regional differences.

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