Iraq inter-parliamentary conference with Iran highlights risks of growing relationship

Iraq inter-parliamentary conference with Iran highlights risks of growing relationship

Iraq has invited representatives of neighbouring countries, including Iran, to participate in an inter-parliamentary conference today. Iran’s participation reflects warming

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Photo: Reuters/Iran Presidential Office

Iraq has invited representatives of neighbouring countries, including Iran, to participate in an inter-parliamentary conference today.

Iran’s participation reflects warming ties between the two countries. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani have both visited the other’s country in the last two months.

Baghdad’s rapprochement with Tehran puts it in a risky, but potentially lucrative position. On the one hand, Iraq’s improving ties with Iran will displease the US. Until now, Washington has been relatively lenient towards Iraq’s reliance on Iranian energy—Baghdad was granted a 90-day sanctions waiver on March 20. However, if Baghdad continues to flaunt its relations with Tehran while signing profitable economic deals, Washington could refuse another waiver on June 18, which would leave Iraq vulnerable to potentially crippling sanctions.

On the other hand, Iraq is leveraging its position in the middle of a tug-of-war between Iran and its detractors. In an attempt to stem Iran’s influence, Saudi Arabia reopened its consulate in Baghdad after more than 30 years and announced $1 billion in aid for Iraq earlier this month.

With countries vying for influence, Baghdad appears to be trying to play all sides, with some success. However, with little political and economic stability, the consequences could be dire if either side loses patience with Iraq’s strategy.

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