Iran’s Foreign Minister Sends Signal at Baghdad Conference
The group photo after the meeting of the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership ion Aug. 28, 2021. (Ludovic Marin/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Sends Signal at Baghdad Conference

Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt, September 2

The Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, which was held last week, was the first official event attended by the new Iranian foreign minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Abdollahian assumed his duties hours before the conference, after new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi appointed him to the position in lieu of the former minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Those who followed the conference know that, in between their meetings, the conference’s participants posed for a joint photo. And while it didn’t seem obvious at first, the newly appointed foreign minister surprised other attendees with an unexpected move. When the photo was taken, the attendees lined up in two rows: the first for leaders and heads of state, and the second for ministers who represented their country at the conference. Abdollahian’s natural place was in the second row, together with the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Turkey. However, moments before the photo was taken, Abdollahian left his place and elbowed his way into the front row, right next to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, vice president of the United Arab Emirates. The press immediately picked up on the incident, which constituted a gross violation of diplomatic protocol. Obviously, Abdollahian’s move was not a mistake. Any novice diplomat knows that these kinds of conferences have clear sets of rules determined by the host county. Therefore, we can only imagine that Abdollahian planned this deliberate move and did it on purpose, with the undeclared goal of signaling that Iran’s position on Iraq is of first – not second – order of importance. And while the theme of the conference was that Iraq’s sovereignty must be respected and protected by other nations, Abdollahian clearly ignored his hosts’ rules and made an explicit statement about the way he and his country view their role in Iraq. – Suleiman Gouda (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)

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