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Iraq bowling alone?

Nov 17,2018 - Last updated at Nov 17,2018

Unfortunate as it may be, at the masses-level only 0.8 per cent of Jordanians named Iraq as “the closest ally” of Jordan in a recent survey by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions. Moreover, when those surveyed were asked to name the country that they would like Jordan to cooperate with more in the future, only 0.8 per cent named Iraq. On the elites’ level, 0.7 per cent named Iraq as the closest ally of Jordan, but when asked about what country Jordan should cooperate with more in the future, 2.3 per cent of elites named Iraq. These numbers, though reflecting more elite willingness to work with Iraq, put the neighbouring country at a very disadvantageous position among Jordanian public opinion compared to other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, the US, the UAE, Egypt, the UK, France, Turkey, Germany, Palestine and even Israel.

For the sake of Jordan and Iraq, economic and security cooperation between the two countries ought to get a significant upgrade beyond normal relations between two neighboring countries for many internal and external reasons. Today, Jordan and Iraq face similar types of threats that require more than ordinary protocols. Both countries are suffocating and need one another to breathe and grow. Thursday’s meeting between His Majesty King Abdullah and Iraqi President Barham Saleh adds another building block to an evolving partnership on two major fronts. This partnership has some inherent problems on both ends.

For one, the threat of instability and terrorism has not vanished with the demise of Daesh’s structures in Syria and Iraq. Terrorism and radicalisation have sociopolitical and ideological roots of various depths, not only in Iraq, Syria and Jordan, but rather globally. The post-occupation Iraq is still finding its way through the mayhem of reconstruction around internal and regional geopolitics. In such volatility, Iraq has not only been a breeding ground and a feeder to radical, violent and transnational terrorist movements, it has been a destination for aspiring radicals, opportunists and economic hitmen from all over the world.

On Iraqi soil, regional politics has been fought and the fights go on unrepentantly. Political and strategic accounts of local, regional and global rivals are being settled in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. Economic competition, too, is protected by many sub-state actors, who are plugged elsewhere outside Iraqi borders with rogue states and transnational sub-state actors. All these security threats and their sponsors make Iraq vulnerable. These realities impact Jordan’s resilience severely. When Iraq’s market is open to Jordan’s products and services, the Jordanian economy thrives.

Therefore, security partnership with Iraq is not a luxury that we can do without. It is a strategic need for Jordan as much as it is for Iraq. Iraq ought to, if and when it can, liberate its politics of destructive regional influences that do not have the interests of the Iraqi state and people on their priority agenda. On the contrary, the interests of Iraq are being manipulated and held hostage by destructive regional forces and subversive sub-state actors. Iraq cannot liberate its politics on its own. It needs the help of all constructive partners to offset the impact destructive forces. Jordan has and will continue to play its globally recognised constructive role in regional peace and stability, and who deserves more security and intelligence partnership with Jordan than Iraq. All the great project ideas of economic cooperation, such as the Basrah-Aqaba oil pipeline, electric connectivity through the Arab grid network via Syria, industrial city on the borders, reconstruction of Anbar and opening Iraqi markets for Jordanian products, require a stable and safe environment to operate. If, and when, these projects are realised, Iraq’s numbers as an actual and desired strong ally of Jordan among Jordanian public opinion may improve.

 

The writer is chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions

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