Barham Saleh: "Stabilising Iraq would be a step forward in the fight against terrorism"

Iraq is optimistic and hopes for a great unity among the countries of the Middle East
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PHOTO/AMEER AL-MOHAMMED  -   Iraqi President Barham Saleh

After many years of instability in Iraq, the hope is to sit down to negotiate and find agreements. Not only on the part of the countries involved, of course. The help of the entire international community is essential to put an end to a conflict that is weighing down the Iraqi state. "The whole world should take a special interest in a successful transition in Iraq," said Iraqi President Barham Saleh. He did so on the second day of a week of lectures organised by Brookings Foreign Policy entitled "The Middle East and the New US Administration", which on this occasion began by analysing the tense situation that the region, which includes Iraq, Syria and Iran, among others, has been experiencing for years. 

The terrorist threat has long been a constant in the Middle East, and overcoming the danger to which the population is subjected, surrounded by armed groups such as Al-Qaeda or the self-styled Islamic State, should be a common task for all countries, not just those that are closest to it. And it should be because the threat exists across the globe, not just in this region. Defeating the potential of such dangerously prepared terrorist organisations is an impossible task for a specific group of countries.  As the Iraqi president made clear: "Unless the whole of international society acts together, it will be impossible to put an end to the terrorist threat". 

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In support of this fight against terrorism, Barham Saleh has stressed the importance of restoring stability to the country over which he presides: "Iraq is a vital country for changing the extremely risky situation in the Middle East". And he is not just referring to the terrorist threat, which is, of course, a major concern. He is also referring to the worrying number of conflicts that continue to rage throughout the region - using the war in Yemen as the most obvious example - and which, he says, must be resolved by everyone doing their bit. To this end, the president opens the doors of his country as a place for all countries to meet and mediate in order to put an end once and for all to the problems that plague the entire region: "Iraq can and wants to be the centre where all the countries of the Middle East can talk and negotiate in peace".

He also made reference to the relevance of the younger sector of the population in his country, which, according to Saleh, is already demanding a new generation of young political leaders to change the situation they have been going through for years. This is why education is an essential pillar in the future reconstruction of Iraq, although the president clarifies that it will be of no use if they do not achieve their fundamental objective of creating employment and increasing their economic power. For the latter, however, the Iraqi state can count on the vital help of the United States, as he says, "We know that Joe Biden will be there to help our country". 

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But President Barham Saleh's trust in the US will not be for nothing. At least that is the view of Gregory Meeks, a member of the US House of Representatives from New York's 5th congressional district. He argues that there can be no guarantee that stability will come overnight because there are many interests in each of the countries involved in any conflict. That is why he believes that "sitting down to negotiate with Iran is necessary if the current situation is to improve". This is the strategy that the Biden administration has firmly believed in since it came to the White House. The solution to the many conflicts they face will be diplomatic or it will not happen. The first moves were not long in coming: on the one hand, the cessation of arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen, and on the other hand, the cessation of the Houthi militia's status as a terrorist organisation. Judge Meeks himself praises the difficulty of making these decisions since "it is easier to decide to go to war than to decide not to go".

The United States knows that it must assume an important role as mediator in this series of conflicts, such as the one that has historically united its ally, Israel, and Palestine. And not only that, different democratic sectors are calling for greater involvement in humanitarian aid. The fact of not maintaining good relations with Palestine should not be a reason not to contribute to alleviating the terrible consequences suffered by the population: "it is a question of humanity", said Gregory Meeks. However, he was also critical of Israel, as he believes that they should be more involved and do more on their part if they really want to resolve their differences with the country led by Mahmoud Abbas: "The solution to the Palestinian conflict should be a two-way street". 

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Somewhat closer to Israel's position was Nasser Bourita, foreign minister of the Kingdom of Morocco. His country has considerably increased diplomatic relations with the country led by Benjamin Netanyahu, because, according to Bourita, it could be one of the fundamental bases of support for the conflict with Palestine: "Morocco can help Israel and Palestine to reach an agreement", he stated. He also stressed the historic ties that have always united his country with Israel, and which should now serve to find the path of dialogue and bring about a greater consensus: "We recognised Israel when it was still taboo to talk about them". 

But he did not only want to refer to the conflict involving Netanyahu's people with Palestine, he also wanted to talk about the important pro-democracy process that is taking place in Libya: "The Libyan transition must be made by all of us together. It is a good time to bet on them," Bourita said. Following the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum in Geneva, the process towards true democracy continues and the ratification of the new Libyan government is only a preamble to the elections scheduled for the end of this year, on 24 December. 

Atalayar_Gregory MeeksThere are many conflicts that need to be addressed in the Middle East, but the cooperation provided by the West makes one optimistic that most, if not all, of them will be resolved. This was also expressed by some European representatives at the Brookings conference, such as Emily Harber, Germany's ambassador to the United States, who said that "all Europeans should have the same goals in the Middle East". "This is not the time to look for special interests in regions that are going through difficult times", agreed the Italian ambassador to the United States. A key geopolitical situation at a time of vital importance for the future of the international order and which, little by little and with the cooperation of all countries, is beginning to look forward to the most optimistic future in recent memory.