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September 29, 2023[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]
Baghdad/Al-Masala Al-Hadath: A report by the Washington Institute considered that the government of Muhammad al-Sudani in Iraq seeks to circumvent the traditional binary option between Washington and Moscow through a clear and bright name for the new road entitled “Development Road Project” and connecting to Beijing as it is the third road to the future.
The report believes that the arrival of Muhammad Shia al-Sudani to the prime ministership in Baghdad was not as smooth as required by the forces close to the eastern axis. However, there were several factors that contributed to Al-Sudani’s accession to the position, including the Shiite parties’ feeling of the necessity of passing a relatively acceptable prime minister in the regional and international forum, the intense competition between the Gulf and Iran, and the fear of the continued repercussions of the tense relationship with Washington caused by the Trump administration.
In light of this fragile situation and confused relations, the Sudanese government tried to circumvent the traditional binary choice between Washington, the West, and most of the Gulf states on the one hand, and Tehran, Damascus, Lebanon, and behind them, Moscow, on the other hand. Moreover, this new road came with a clear and bright name titled “Development Road Project” and connected to what evidence points to Beijing being the third road of the future.
The political reorganization in Iraq came as a reaction to the changing views of Iraqis towards the United States and the broader geopolitical space, including the meager American withdrawal from Afghanistan and the political changes in the American political methodology with the arrival of Biden, the failure of the process of reviving the nuclear agreement with Iran, the stagnation of the Syrian file, and support for Erdogan. Putin's constant, the ongoing Russian attacks on Ukraine, the movement of the economy linked to oil prices, inflation, financial turmoil in currency rates from Cairo to Tehran, and the issue of fear of strict economic sanctions. Finally, and most importantly, China's economic rise is increasing.
Since the American occupation and the fall of Saddam's regime in 2003, Iraq has not been able to emerge from the cycle of American and Gulf rivalry in the face of Tehran and its allies, as this state of bilateral competition caused internal exhaustion of its forces and made it an arena for settling scores, and the Iraqis paid a heavy price as a result of this situation.
Therefore, with clear developments in international politics in the Middle East arena, Iraqi officials in Baghdad were prompted to look from a new window that might worry Washington the most. These officials believe that China's growing role in the region is still not burdened by many of the issues they place on other actors, as China has avoided engaging directly in competition with the United States over the region. However, regional developments are beginning to indicate that the American international contraction and the Russian inability to lead the anti-American part of the world are paving the way for Beijing to make its political way into that region.
Iraqi officials in Baghdad are attracted to the Chinese policy proposed by Chinese diplomats. They believe that China is indifferent to the style of government in third world countries, does not interfere in regional conflicts directly, and avoids contact with sensitive files in the region, such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Observers often draw a comparison between the apparent decline in American interest in the region and the rapid Chinese rise in the economy.
Moreover, the change in administration in Washington prompted Iraqi officials to be cautious, especially after they realized that it was not possible to settle for agreements and treaties with Washington that might end with a change in the American administration. Also, Baghdad, which had long and close relations with Moscow in the period preceding the fall of Saddam Hussein, realizes that Russia cannot fill the American vacuum if that happens.
Therefore, the recent agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two arch enemies in the region, and under the auspices of Beijing, was a political announcement card for the Chinese appearance in the Middle East forum. Iraq, which had a role in those negotiations, was watching with astonishment as Washington was watching the agreement happen without doing anything. Iraq was also watching how Gulf and regional powers affiliated with Washington were competing to submit requests to join the BRICS bloc, which many in the Third World view as a possible alternative to the current Western leadership of the world. The long-term Chinese-Iranian agreement was another example of Beijing's expansion and its reach to the Iraqi borders.
In this context, the noticeable decline in US reactions to these developments prompted Sudanese and his team to propose the Development Road Project, a project that some consider to be an extension of China’s “Belt and Road” projects. This step was an Iraqi declaration to open the country politically to China. It is noteworthy that Chinese companies have investments worth billions of dollars in Iraq, and the volume of trade exchange between the two countries “exceeded 53 billion US dollars in 2022,” according to a statement by the Chinese embassy in Baghdad, but China’s future political role was strengthened by the announcement of the project exclusively.
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