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Foreign relations of Iraq

Since 1980 Iraq's foreign policy was influenced by Hussein's invasion of Iran and Kuwait. Though the Iran-Iraq War ended in August 1988, antagonism persisted between these two nations. The question of war reparations, the repatriation of prisoners of war, and other issues remained unresolved throughout the years of Saddam Hussein's administration. In addition, the invasion of Kuwait that triggered the Gulf War changed Iraq's relations with the Arab world. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco were among the countries that supported Kuwait in the UN coalition. Since the Gulf War, Iraq's relations these nations—especially with Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia—had cooled significantly. The main focus of Hussein's foreign policy was an effort to end the UN economic sanctions. In 1999, the ninth anniversary of the sanctions, the Iraqi government issued a statement describing the sanctions as criminal. A number of UN-member nations, including Russia, France, China, and Turkey, were in favor of easing the UN sanctions on Iraq. By contrast, the United States and Britain insisted on prolonging the sanctions until Hussein was deposed. Their view was that Iraq must fully comply with all UN Security Council resolutions, including those that relate to human rights abuses and weapons inspection. In January 2002, Hussein appealed to the Arab countries, specifically attempting to improve Iraq's relations with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia; in March 2002, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah embraced Hussein's plan in a move that was widely regarded as a rebuke of the United States and President George W. Bush's efforts toward peace in the Middle East. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the country has now tried to establish relations with various nations.

Iraqi foreign relations by region

Europe

Relations with Germany

  • History of relations with GDR (East Germany)

Iraq had full diplomatic recognition to the GDR, being the only non-communist regime to do so at the time. Iraq's full diplomatic recognition of East Germany and Foreign Minister Otto Winzer's acknowledgement of that recognition were announced in Neues Deutschland on 2 May 1969. The Iraqi decision did not come entirely as a surprise, following as it did the extended visit by Foreign Minister Abdul Karim al-Shaykhli to the Soviet Union and East Germany from 20 to 31 March 1969, in which as a result of this visit, discussions amounted to both countries tightening relations and taking further "steps for deepening cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields." Iraq had thus become the fourteenth state to fully recognize East Germany (in addition to the thirteen "socialist" states) and the first of the non-aligned or "third" world nation to make this decision.

During the Baath Party Congress in Bagdad in early February 1969, recognition of East Germany was loudly demanded for the first time, and thereafter Foreign Minister Otto Winzer warmly greeted his Iraqi counterpart both in Bagdad and in East Berlin. In an interview given to the East German weekly Horizont, where the head of the Iraqi state, Hassan El-Bakr, stated:

"Aside from the fact that we are two socialist republics and have common aims, we recall with pride and joy the attitude taken by the GDR in condemning aggression, in supporting the Arab cause, and we remember the fact that the GDR does not maintain any relations with the aggressor, and that it combats imperialism and colonialism. Again, we have to thank the GDR for this attitude."

The thanks had been made in the form of statehood recognition.

Concerning East German-Iraqi trade, at that time, Iraqi exports to the whole Eastern Bloc amount only to one half of its exports to the Federal Republic. In 1968, West Germany imported Iraqi crude oil valued at 184 million marks, in addition to other imports for 2 million marks. West German exports at that same time amounted to 81 million marks, with a regressive tendency since East Germany was increasingly exporting to Iraq.

Turkey

In 1988 Iraq maintained cordial relations with Turkey, its non-Arab neighbor to the north. Turkey served as an important transshipment point for both Iraqi oil exports and its commodity imports. A pipeline transported oil from the northern oil fields of Iraq through Turkey to the Mediterranean Sea. Trucks carrying a variety of European manufactured goods used Turkish highways to bring imports into Iraq. There was also trade between Turkey and Iraq, the former selling Iraq small arms, produce, and textiles. In addition, Iraq and Turkey have cooperated in suppressing Kurdish guerrilla activities in their common border area.

Middle East

Relations with Egypt

Iraq’s relations with the Arab world have been extremely varied. Egypt broke relations with Iraq in 1977, following Iraq’s criticism of President Anwar Sadat’s peace initiatives with Israel. In 1978, Baghdad hosted an Arab League summit that condemned and ostracized Egypt for accepting the Camp David accords. However, Egypt’s strong material and diplomatic support for Iraq in the war with Iran led to warmer relations and numerous contacts between senior officials, despite the continued absence of ambassadorial-level representation. Since 1983, Iraq has repeatedly called for restoration of Egypt’s “natural role” among Arab countries. In January 1984, Iraq successfully led Arab efforts within the OIC to restore Egypt’s membership. However, Iraqi-Egyptian relations were broken in 1990 after Egypt joined the UN coalition that forced Iraq out of Kuwait. Relations have steadily improved in recent years, and Egypt is now one of Iraq’s main trade partners (formerly under the Oil-for-Food Programme).

Relations with Iran

Iraqi-Iranian relations have remained cool since the end of the Iraq-Iran War in 1988. Outstanding issues from that war, including prisoner of war exchanges and support of armed opposition parties operating in each other’s territory, remain to be solved.

Relations appear to have improved since March 2008, when Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a two-day visit to Iraq.

Relations with Lebanon

Throughout history, Iraq's relations with Lebanon have been relatively close, both politically and culturally. During the regime of Saddam Hussein, the leader of the Ba'ath Party had strong relations with Bachir, and Amine Gemayel; relations grew even stronger when Iraqi officials verbally lashed out against Israel's actions in the 2006 War. However, relations have diminished due to ongoing sectarian clashes between Iraq's Sunni and Shia Muslim branches, and the Lebanese Government's support of Hezbollah.

Lebanon's prime minister traveled to Baghdad on August 2008, which was the only third such visit by a top Arab leader since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Fuad Saniora called his one-day trip an opportunity to renew contact after more than a decade of chilly relations between Beirut and Baghdad. At a news conference alongside Saniora, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the two countries would sign several agreements soon, including one on Iraq exporting oil to Lebanon. Lebanon's parliamentary majority leader, Saad Hariri (also, of partial Iraqi origin), visited Iraq in July 2008, followed by Jordan's King Abdullah II, the first Arab head of state to fly to Baghdad since the 2003 war.

Some figures in Lebanon's powerful Shiite militia Hezbollah have close personal ties with the religious hierarchy in Najaf, and some Lebanese Shiites trace their family origins back to what is now Iraq. Relations between Lebanon and Iraq soured in the mid-1990s after Iraqi agents killed a dissident in Beirut. But the two maintained embassies in each other's capitals even after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Lebanese PM visits Baghdad to discuss Trade

Iraqi government will provide Lebanon with oil at preferential rates

Relations with Israel

Iraq participated in the Arab-Israeli war of 1948, 1967 and 1973, and traditionally has opposed all attempts to reach a peaceful settlement between Israel and the Arab States. Israel attacked Iraq’s nuclear research reactor under construction near Baghdad in July 1981. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iraq moderated its anti-Israel stance considerably. In August 1982 President Hussein stated to a visiting U.S. Congressman that “a secure state is necessary for both Israel and the Palestinians.” Iraq did not oppose then U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s September 1, 1982 Arab-Israeli peace initiative, and it supported the moderate Arab position at the Fez summit that same month. Iraq repeatedly stated that it would support whatever settlement is found acceptable by the Palestinians. However, after the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Iraq reverted to more stridently anti-Israel statements. During the Persian Gulf War, Iraq fired Scud missiles at Israeli territory in an attempt to divide the U.S. coalition, and, since the end of the Persian Gulf War, Iraq has embraced an anti-Israel position, including periodically calling for the total elimination of Israel.

Relations with Jordan

Iraq’s relations with Jordan have improved significantly since 1980, when Jordan declared its support for Iraq at the outset of the Iran-Iraq war. Jordan’s support for Iraq during the Gulf War resulted in a further improvement of ties. Relations have cooled since the current King of Jordan took office in 2000, but remain good. King Abdullah of Jordan has become the first Arab leader to visit Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, a landmark step towards reducing Baghdad's isolation among its Sunni Arab neighbours. Jordan is one of a small number of Arab countries to have named ambassadors to Iraq.

Relations with Kuwait

Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 resulted in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and most Persian Gulf states severing relations with Baghdad and joining the United Nations coalition that forced Iraqi forces out of Kuwait during the Persian Gulf War. Iraq’s refusal to implement UN Security Council Resolutions and continued threats toward Kuwait have resulted in relations remaining cool.

Relations with Syria

Syria and Iraq have been tied by historical, social, political, cultural and economic relations. Such relations gain particular importance due their political and economic position in the Middle East, and to the reciprocal influence on each other, but traditionally they have been burdened by mistrust and suspicion. Ever since King Faisal took the Iraqi throne in the early 1920s, Iraqi leaders have dreamed of unifying the two countries. Unity dreams only led to bad relations between other Arab countries. Even during the thaw in Iraqi-Syrian relations during the last years of Saddam, relations between the two countries were not good. Distrust between the rival Baathist regimes, built up over three decades, could not be dispelled in a few short years. With an entirely new leadership in Iraq, the situation is now promising, as new possibilities are arising. Syria is developing good relations with almost every segment and political faction in Iraq. Relations with Syria have been marred by traditional rivalry for pre-eminence in Arab affairs, allegations of involvement in each other’s internal politics, and disputes over the waters of Euphrates River, oil transit fees, and stances toward Israel. Syria broke relations after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 and joined other Arab countries in sending military forces to the coalition that forced Iraq out of Kuwait. Relations remained cool until Bashar al-Asad became President of Syria in 2000. Economic ties based on illicit oil smuggling have strengthened, but politically the relationship remains distant.

Although the official relations between the two countries were suspended in the past, Syrian-Iraqi relations experienced remarkable developments in recent years and the reciprocal visits between the two countries have led to a number of agreements on economic cooperation including an agreement for resuming pumping of oil through the Syrian territories which was suspended in 1982.

Syria, strongly opposed the occupation of Iraq in 2003, stressing the necessity to maintain the independence of Iraq and support it's political process, demanding a time table for the withdrawal of the foreign troops from Iraq. Syria has also played the host for so far more than 1.5 million Iraqis, allowing them to mix with Syrian society.

Syria and Iraq formally ended more than 20 years of diplomatic estrangement, when Syria's foreign minister, Walid Moallem, visited Iraq in 2006, which was the first such meeting since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Syria and Iraq were both governed by Baathist ruling parties but broke ties during the 1980s' Iran-Iraq war. Later, Syria joined the anti-Saddam coalition that liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation in the 1991 Gulf War. Up until the renewal of diplomatic ties in 2006, Iraqi leaders often accused Syria of trying to destabilize their country by allowing Sunni Arab foreign fighters to cross the border Iraq shares with Syria.

Outside the Middle East

Outside the Middle East, Iraq maintained correct relations with other countries. Iraq identified itself as part of the Nonaligned Movement of primarily African and Asian nations, actively participated in its deliberations during the late 1970s, and successfully lobbied to have Baghdad chosen as the site for its September 1982 conference. Although significant resources were expended to prepare facilities for the conference, and Saddam Hussein would have emerged from the meeting as a recognized leader of the Nonaligned Movement, genuine fears of an Iranian bombing of the capital during the summer of 1982 forced the government reluctantly to request that the venue of the conference be transferred to New Delhi. Since that time, preoccupation with the war against Iran, which also is a member of the Nonaligned Movement, has tended to restrict the scope of Iraqi participation in that organization.

Relations with Pakistan

Iraq and Pakistan have had close cultural, friendly, and cooperative relations since the latter's independence in 1947. Issues such as Iraqi support for Pakistan in its' 1971 war with India (which Iraq also has excellent relations with), and Pakistani support for Iraq against Iran in the Iran-Iraq War have forged relations between the two. Relations soured during the Gulf War when Pakistan contributed troops for the UN Coalition, seeing it as a betrayal due to Iraq's constant support for Pakistan in their previous wars with India. In 2002, Saddam Hussin visited India and said he gave his unwavering support to India over the Kashmir dispute. In 2003, Pakistan rejected US's request to send troops for the invasion which have helped soothed relations between the two.

Member of International Organizations

Iraq belongs to the following international organizations: Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, Arab League, Arab Monetary Fund, Council of Arab Economic Unity, Customs Cooperation Council, Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, G-77, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Monetary Fund, International Maritime Organization, Interpol, International Organization for Standardization, International Telecommunication Union, Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries, Organisation of the Islamic Conference, United Nations, Universal Postal Union, World Health Organization and World Bank.

Disputes - international

Iran and Iraq restored diplomatic relations in 1990 but are still trying to work out written agreements settling outstanding disputes from their eight-year war concerning border demarcation, prisoners-of-war, and freedom of navigation and sovereignty over the Shatt al-Arab waterway; in November 1994, Iraq formally accepted the UN-demarcated border with Kuwait which had been spelled out in Security Council Resolutions 687 (1991), 773 (1993), and 883 (1993); this formally ends earlier claims to Kuwait and to Bubiyan and Warbah islands although the government continues periodic rhetorical challenges; dispute over water development plans by Turkey for the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

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