News Code: 2977

Date of Release: 2018-10-29

Iraqi Premier Able to Perform Balancing Act Between Iran, US

The new Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is capable of striking a balance between the interests of his country’s two major allies, Iran and the United States, a Middle East expert said. In an interview with Iranian Diplomacy, Mohammad Saleh Sedqian said the Iraqi premier’s stated approach to Tehran and Washington is “completely sound […]

The new Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is capable of striking a balance between the interests of his country’s two major allies, Iran and the United States, a Middle East expert said.

In an interview with Iranian Diplomacy, Mohammad Saleh Sedqian said the Iraqi premier’s stated approach to Tehran and Washington is “completely sound and logical”.

Abdul Mahdi said a day after his inauguration on Thursday that his administration will prioritize the country’s “own interests and independence” when it comes to taking sides between Iran and the US, which have been on increasingly bad terms, especially since the US unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal in May and its reimposition of sanctions.

In his statements, Abdul Mahdi also pointed out that his government will make efforts to maintain cooperation with Tehran despite US sanctions, but Iraq’s interests and independence come first.

“As the prime minister, he cannot and doesn’t want to tilt toward one side in relations with Tehran and Washington, but it is logical to create a balance of interests,” Sedqian said, adding that he cannot ignore his own countries’ benefits.

Logical Approach

“[This approach] is completely logical and in keeping with diplomatic norms,” the expert said.

Sedqian explained that since the collapse of Ba’ath Party in 2003, Iraq has had strong and sustained relations with Iran, which are unlikely to be broken off or sour with the change of governments.

Bilateral ties, according to him, cover a range of areas from political and diplomatic spheres to religious, ethnic and cultural bonds. It has even expanded to close economic relations and, more recently, security collaborations to fend off terrorist groups.

“Whoever is at the helm will have to give attention to relations with an important neighbor like Iran,” he said.

“Nevertheless, Baghdad needs to take account of another key partner, namely the United States, whose interests in Iraq “are severely at odds with Iran’s,” said the analyst, noting that the situation calls for a government capable of taking advantage of both sides to its own benefit. Sedqian said the new Iraqi prime minister is a moderate and technocrat who is accepted by Washington, relatively familiar with Tehran’s policies and enjoys the positive view of Europeans as well, suggesting that he will most likely manage to establish the equilibrium.
Diplomatic Front

Abdul Mahdi’s proposed minister for foreign affairs, Mohammad Ali al-Hakim, has several advantages, according to Sedqian, which can significantly help him carry forward Iraq’s foreign policy and diplomacy.

“He has studied in Najaf Seminary and comes from a noble and influential Iraqi family, so he has thorough knowledge of Iraq’s domestic affairs as well as the Middle East region,” he said.

Sedqian said Hakim has studied in Britain and the US, and knows about European and American attitudes toward Iraq and the Middle East.

“No major mishap is likely in Iran-Iraq relations in the future,” he said.

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