Iranian influence in Iraq seems to be winning out over the US in its attempts to bring the government of Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani closer to the US. The Iraqis are keen to maintain their relations with China, Russia and Iran and, according to observers, Baghdad has already advanced future agreements with these countries. Al Sudani has already expressed his intention to increase Iraq's participation in OPEC, which is currently in a complicated context due to production cuts.
Iraq is clear that following in the footsteps of its Iranian partner is the best option for its economy. Iraq's situation is not the best, as it is currently undergoing a reconstruction process for which it hopes to count on the help of its Iranian partners. The disadvantage - which does not seem to be such for Iraq - of this collaboration with Tehran would be its incompatibility with the partnership proposed by Washington, although the Baghdad government's line of work does not seem to go through the White House.
However, the US hopes, or rather expected, to change the Iraqis' minds by offering them partnership agreements on a number of issues. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the US 'stands ready to work with the government and people of Iraq to perpetuate respect for human rights, increase economic opportunity, promote independence in Iraq's energy sector, and address the climate crisis'. Observers believe, however, that Blinken's words have had no effect on Iraq's plans, as it continues to pursue closer ties with its eastern partners.
The reality is that China has worked hard to stay close to Baghdad, as evidenced by the signing of oil deals in 2019, which led Beijing to become one of the largest beneficiaries of Iraqi oil. In fact, it currently imports 44% of Iraq's 800,000 barrels of crude oil exported daily. In addition, the Iraq Petroleum Exploration Company and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation have begun joint seismic surveys as part of a first phase of large-scale offshore oil and gas exploration.
Unsurprisingly, the influence that the country led by Xi Jin Ping is gaining has not been for nothing. And, as has been the norm in this region for a number of years, the Belt and Road Initiative is behind it. Up to $10.5 billion has been earmarked to finance infrastructure-related projects, including the construction of a power plant and an airport.
To this must be added the latest contract signed between China and Iraq worth $386 million to build an oil processing train facility in the Qurainat area to develop production in southern Rumaila, Iraq's largest oil field. Each of the trains is expected to have a capacity of around 120,000 barrels of oil. All of this is what, according to observers, has caused Iraq to consider bypassing its Chinese partner in favour of the US, whose efforts to ally with the Iraqis appear to be falling on deaf ears.
Americas Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.