Reuters
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, left, and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visit the historical city Ad Diriyah near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, March 31.

Why Iraq is now a Mideast peace broker

Its reformist prime minister has built up enough trust to host a summit of Arab and Iranian leaders that might lift the region’s youth out of despair.

For half a century, Iraq has been either an aggressor toward its Middle East neighbors or a victim of them. On Saturday, it will try to play a different role, that of a regional mediator for peace. It is a role learned the hard way and now largely driven by young Iraqis, whose common slogan is “We want a country” (Nureed watan).

Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, whose past work includes leading an Iraqi foundation for conflict resolution, will be hosting a summit of Arab and Iranian leaders. The main aim is to end the violent rivalry between two big neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as their meddling in Iraq.

Since coming to power as a reformer last year after mass protests against a corrupt elite, Mr. Kadhimi needs regional calm. Elections are due in October and Iraq faces an acute drought, electricity cutoffs, and terrorist attacks on democracy activists.

“We are in a sensitive situation. We need to calm the political situation until we reach the elections,” he told The Associated Press in an interview.

Since early 2021, he has brokered initial talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, using his experience as a former journalist and intelligence chief to find common interests between them. His convening of a summit suggests both countries are ready for a deal, perhaps first in settling one big dispute, their proxy war in Yemen.

“Iraq has succeeded in gaining the trust of these countries, and accordingly, it is working toward the stability of the region,” he told AP.

Since Iraq’s liberation from a dictator in 2003 by the United States, its fledgling democracy has been racked by internal rivalry between Sunnis, Shiites, and Kurds. But the Iraqi people found some unity in their 2017 victory over the Islamic State caliphate, followed by youth protests in 2019 against corruption and the divvying up of resources by ethnicity and religion.

Iraq is not alone in feeling pressure from restive youth. Leaders in Saudi Arabia and Iran know they must satisfy the demands of young people, which can only happen with regional peace and economic investments. In Iran, voter turnout for a June presidential election was the lowest since the 1979 revolution. In frequent protests, Iranians shout “Down with the dictatorship.”

Within Iraq, Mr. Kadhimi has earned enough trust between political factions to make modest reforms. Now he also has enough trust with neighboring countries to act as a bridge for reconciliation. He has seen Iraq as both aggressor and victim. He can help others find a way to end that cycle of conflict.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Why Iraq is now a Mideast peace broker
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2021/0825/Why-Iraq-is-now-a-Mideast-peace-broker
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe