The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran), reported that the Iraqi government hosted a conference on August 28 to “reduce regional tensions,” “respect the sovereignty of the Iraqi government,” and “remove Iraq from the arena of foreign power confrontation.”
Baghdad Summit 2021
Egypt’s, Jordan’s, Qatar’s, and France’s leaders, as well as the UAE Prime Minister and the foreign ministers of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait, attended the meeting. While the Iranian leadership disliked the event, it was eager to capitalise on it and claim to be at the centre of it.
Iraqis launched social media campaigns
Iraqis launched social media campaigns days before the conference declaring that the new regime’s president, Ebrahim Raisi, is a “persona non grata” in their country. Hashtags in Arabic, such as “no to Raisi in Iraq,” have been popular.
Nonetheless, the Iranian regime’s delegation was led by Hossein Amir Abdollahian, the new foreign minister, who may not have been the focus of the summit, but he certainly made headlines.
Iran regards Iraq as its backyard
According to Iranian official media, the summit in Baghdad would be an attempt by Mustafa al-Kadhimi to improve relations between Tehran and Riyadh. Even the name of the conference was questioned, according to the state-run Mizan website, which is associated with the regime’s court.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, on the other hand, has said that he will call prominent officials from regional countries to help promote peace and stability in Iraq. Tehran took note of the action, as it has always sought to keep up with happenings in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq, which it regards as its backyard.
The presence of Emanuel Macron
The regime was particularly irritated that Syria, its closest Arab partner, was not invited. Given that Tehran had always dictated its terms to Baghdad, the latter was seen as a major slam.
The presence of Emanuel Macron was another issue that enraged the government. The Iranian leadership has been calling for ‘foreign forces’ to leave the region for years, and former foreign minister Zarif has called for a ‘regional dialogue.’
However, during a news conference on Saturday, the French president met with Iraqi officials and paid a visit to the Shiite holy shrine in Al-Kadhimiya, where he said: “No matter what choices the Americans make, we will maintain our presence in Iraq; to fight against terrorism.”
Iraq’s neighbours are the problem
As a result, the spokesman for the Iranian regime’s foreign ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh, said, “After the French President’s ill-advised remarks, which created the perception that Iraq’s neighbours are the problem, I express my regret that this shows how far France is from the realities of Iraq.”
The Iranian state media felt the reverberations of these blows. The Iraqi Prime Minister was threatened by the Vatane Emrooz daily, which wrote: “Mr. Kadhemi, watch out with the dangerous game of yours!” Mizan news agency accused Macron of blocking Syria’s invitation to the Baghdad Summit and that he was trying to win influence in Iraq for its oil.
Tehran has stated that it will focus on a regional approach
More manoeuvring and saber-rattling in the Middle East is likely now that the new administration in Tehran has stated that it will focus on a regional approach. Dealing with the Taliban on the eastern border may encourage Tehran to exert more influence on the impending Iraqi election in order to maintain its hold on the western neighbour.
How its policies are met with robust responses from Iraqi society, the region, and the international community will determine whether it succeeds in replacing al-Kadhimi with a puppet who listens to the Iran-backed militia.