The Iraqi government held a conference on August 28 aiming to reduce tensions in the region,’ ‘respecting the sovereignty of the Iraqi government,’ and remove ‘Iraq from an arena of confrontation between foreign powers.
Attendants to the conference included the leaders of Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, France, the Prime Minister of the UAE, and foreign ministers of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait. The Iranian regime was not impressed about the occasion and chose to send their foreign minister rather than their president, but they still made sure that they were at the center of the summit.
Days before the conference, the people of Iraq conducted social media campaigns declaring that the new regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi is a ‘persona non grata’ in their country. Hashtags in the Arabic language like ‘no to Raisi in Iraq’ became popular trends.
According to Iranian state media, the goal of the conference in Baghdad was Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s attempt to better the relations between Tehran and Riyadh.
Iranian state media claimed that the goal of Baghdad’s summit would be an attempt by the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, to warm up relations between Tehran and Riyadh, however, al-Kadhimi had already made it public that he was inviting senior officials from neighboring countries to help promote the peace and stability in Iraq.
The regime was also displeased that its closest ally in the Arab world, Syria, was not invited. The latter was regarded as a serious slam, considering that Tehran had always dictated its terms to Baghdad.
Instead of sending President Ebrahim Raisi to the conference, the regime chose to send their new foreign minister, Hossein Amir Abdollahian. Abdollahian made headlines when he broke protocol during a photography session by refusing to stand on the row with other foreign ministers. Instead, he chose to stand between the leaders of the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. In response as to why he broke protocol, he answered that he ‘stood where the Islamic Republic deserved to stand’.
Another issue that angered the regime was the presence of Emanuel Macron. For years, the Iranian regime had called for ‘foreign troops’ to leave the region, and former foreign minister Zarif had called for a ‘regional dialog’.
Macron, the French president met with Iraqi leaders last weekend and claimed that the French army will maintain a presence in Iraq ‘to fight against terrorism’.
Following Macron’s remarks, Saeed Khatibzadeh, the Iranian regime’s foreign ministry’s spokesman, said, “After these ill-advised remarks by the French President, who created the perception that Iraq’s neighbors are the problem, I express my regret that this shows how far France is from the realities of Iraq.”
As the dust settles on Raisi’s new administration, they have already announced that their focus will have a ‘regional approach’, and with the Taliban heavy on Iran’s eastern border, the regime is likely to influence Iraq’s upcoming election to strengthen the grip on their western neighbor.
Whether it succeeds in replacing al-Kadhimi with a puppet that listens to the Iran-backed militia depends on how its policies are met with firm responses from the Iraqi society, the region, and the world community.