Egypt-Iraq-Jordan Alignment: A New Arab Bloc?
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attended a trilateral meeting in Baghdad on Sunday with the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, and Jordan’s King, Abdallah II, to discuss economic and as well as regional issues. It’s worth mentioning, though, that it was the first visit for an Egyptian President to Iraq since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the 1980s.
The conflict severed the diplomatic relations between Cairo and Baghdad. Yet, they reinvigorated their bilateral relations in recent years with senior officials exchanging visits.
Presidents of the three countries met last year in Amman, and the multilateral meeting was set in April but it was delayed due to the Egyptian train crash and the failed coup d’état in Jordan.
The trilateral summit aimed at establishing robust relations between the three countries. They talked about cybercrime, terrorism, oil, trade, regional crisis, among others.
Frankly, Iraq seeks to restore its regional role by shoring up regional alliances. This was clear when it hosted the latest talks between the two major rivals in the region: Iran and Saudi Arabia.
Likewise, Egypt wants to stress its regional role, as well as, to discuss the Grand Ethiopian Dam (GERD) with the respective countries. This is in addition to fighting terrorism and enhancing the economy.
What’s in it for the three countries?
“That is a big deal. It shows that Cairo and Baghdad are repositioning themselves as important regional centers after years of crises, conflict and the weakening of major states saw power shift to Turkey, Iran, Israel, and Gulf nations,” Seth J. Frantzman, Senior Middle East Correspondent and Middle East affairs analyst at The Jerusalem Post said.
Indeed, the alliance is pivotal in a war-torn region, where joint Arab action is absent. Egypt has significant military resources, Jordan has the human capital, while Iraq has the energy infrastructure. Hence, if they wisely capitalize their resources, the alliance could have far-reaching effects on the respective countries.
The tripartite alliance could provide both Cairo and Amman with fresh political leverage.
Jordan, for instance, has lost its influence amid waning UAE support. The normalization deals between UAE, Bahrain, and Israel have drastic effects on Amman.
Therefore, the tripartite alliance might work as a hedge against Israeli hostility. Frankly, it might bring Saudi Arabia and Jordan closer.
Moreover, Dr. Neil Quilliam, Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme said: “The tripartite alliance has a clear political goal and that is to counter Iranian influence in Iraq. Not through direct or indirect military means, supporting proxies, or even carrying out covert operations, but by strengthening economic ties, encouraging population exchanges, increasing security and counterterrorism cooperation, and tying the three countries together through extensive and expansive energy infrastructure.”
Too good to be true
Though we have high expectations, it’s too early to assess the effectiveness of what’s described as a formidable alliance. The tripartite alliance could work as a buffer against Iranian and Turkish hegemony, yet it’s too naïve to argue that Tehran is willing to cease its support for Iranian-backed groups in Baghdad. Iraq is still suffering from political paralysis, power vacuum, and foreign interventions. This is not to say that the deal is useless. It’s crucial, yet full integration of the respective countries is a long way off given the international and regional dynamics since the onset of the US invasion of Iraq and the rise of Iran as a hegemonic power in the MENA region.