Iraq has important role to play in Arab world, says Jordan's King Abdullah

Mohammed Shia Al Sudani makes first foreign trip since taking office last month

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Iraq has an important role to play in the Arab world, Jordan's King Abdullah told the country's new Prime Minister in Amman, after a change of power in Baghdad brought in a more pro-Iranian government.

It was Mohammed Shia Al Sudani's first foreign trip since he took office last month. The king received him at the airport, underlying the importance the two countries have placed on improving ties.

King Abdullah told Mr Al Sudani during talks between the two men that he wished for the Iraqi Prime Minister “to succeed in his missions”, the official Jordanian news agency said.

“The king pointed out the importance of Iraq's role in its Arab surroundings and in the region, affirming that the security of Iraq is a cornerstone of regional security and stability,” the agency said.

“The talks covered the struggles and crisis of the region, as well as the war of terror.”

King Abdullah said co-operation should continue between Jordan, Iraq and Egypt after beginning under Mr Al Sudani's predecessor, Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

Unlike Mr Al Kadhimi, Mr Al Sudani is regarded in Amman and across the region as a close ally of Iran and Shiite groups supported by Tehran.

Relations between Jordan and Iraq have been mostly uneasy since the US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. This ushered in a Shiite political ascendancy and led to the country falling into what many in the region consider the Iranian orbit.

In 2004, King Abdullah warned that Baghdad and other Arab capitals were becoming part of an ideological “Shiite crescent” beholden to Tehran.

Meanwhile, Iraq accused Jordan of sheltering former Saddam loyalists.

Improving ties

Ties between Jordan and Iraq, as well as between Iraq and Gulf states, improved significantly during former prime minister Haider Al Abadi's term from 2014 to 2018.

Under Mr Al Kadhimi, who took office two years ago in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Iraqi economy retreated sharply and the dinar came under pressure.

Both former leaders worked closely with the US.

Iraq and Jordan signed many agreements to boost trade and investment, although Jordanian officials privately say their meagre bilateral economic exchange is unlikely to improve without a fundamental shift by Iraq away from Iran.

Jordan has an agreement with Baghdad to supply it with 10,000 barrels of crude oil a day on preferential terms. This accounts for 7 per cent of Jordan's oil imports.

The kingdom is dependent on US and European aid, and has a military pact with Washington.

The oil deal with Iraq dates to 2006, but deliveries were frequently interrupted, either because of political disputes, security issues, price changes or transport problems.

The two countries have also signed number of agreements covering agriculture, trade, mining, investment and electricity.

Last month, the two neighbours laid the cornerstone for an electricity grid interconnection project designed to address Iraq's chronic power shortage.

The project is part of a larger plan to establish a pan-Arab power market by connecting the GCC states with Egypt, Jordan and Iraq.

The US encouraged better ties between Iraq and other Arab countries in recent years to try to counter the rapid spread of Iran's influence in the region.

There had been concern that the new Iraqi government's closeness to Iran could derail these efforts.

Mr Al Sudani was the nominee of Iraq's biggest parliamentary group, the Co-ordination Framework, which is made up of Tehran-allied Shiite militias and political parties.

He has assured neighbours and allies that his government will continue to strengthen ties with Arab countries.

Updated: November 21, 2022, 5:35 PM