Rebranding Iraq (AUDIO INTERVIEW)
Iraq, under Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, seems to be positioning itself to enjoy the best of all worlds.
The mostly Shi’ite country has plenty to gain from close ties with Iran, its immediate neighbor to the east. The Islamic Republic is suffering from crippling sanctions reimposed by the US when the latter withdrew from the 2015 multilateral agreement aimed at curbing Tehran’s nuclear ambitions, and Iraq, rebuilding its military – never mind its economy – can greatly benefit by helping Iran bypass some of those sanctions.
Then there is Saudi Arabia, Iraq’s immediate neighbor to the south. The Saudis are coming to understand that oil is not forever and are looking to invest some of their wealth elsewhere in the region. With Iraq looking to rebuild after decades of war – first, when the US and other western nations came to oust Saddam Hussein, and then when badly needed resources were poured into the fight against Islamic State and its self-declared caliphate – Baghdad could be a place for Riyadh to sign some of those investment contracts it’s looking for.
Interestingly, as Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia are mortal enemies, this could also put Iraq in a unique position – if not as a peacemaker, then at least as a middleman.
For more on the unique opportunities Iraq is poised to enjoy, The Media Line spoke with Ellie Geranmayeh, deputy head of the Middle East and North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations.