Iraq hosted Baghdad Summit 2021, bringing together senior leadership from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Egypt and France together under one roof. All these nations have some or other contentious issues among them. However, the summit was the crucial first step towards regional reconciliation and has set the winds of change in the region.
Iraq as a regional mediator
Summit’s venue, the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, clearly highlighted the new role that Iraq is trying to assume in the Middle East. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi intends to make Iraq a regional mediator. Earlier, Iraq has hosted Saudi-Iran talks dialogues as well as a tripartite summit between Egypt, Jordan and Iran.
Iranian Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian spoke with his Saudi counterpart, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, on the sidelines of the Baghdad Summit. With it, Saudi and Iran appear ready to resume direct talks under Iraqi mediation.
Qatar seems to be re-emerging from the shadows of sanctions placed on it by the GCC countries. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani during the summit. It was the first meeting between the two leaders since they agreed to end a long-running dispute. During the summit, the Emir of Qatar also met the Vice President of UAE and the Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid. The meeting is said to have been very cordial, hinting at increasing cordiality between UAE and Qatar.
France replacing the US in the Middle East
It was worth noting that France was the only Western country at the Baghdad Summit and the absence of the United States was noticeable. Analysts feel it is a sign of France emerging to replace the United States in the Middle East. The ground for it is already laid with the defeat of the US in Afghanistan and by bold military and economic initiatives by France in Iraq and Lebanon.
Missed opportunity for Turkey
These days, dynamics in the Middle East are changing quite frequently. Amid this is the ambition of Turkish President Erdogan to reestablish the Ottoman Empire and lead the region. However, Erdogan did not attend the Baghdad Summit, which saw attendance from all other state heads. With Erdogan’s confrontational policies and nature, analysts believe Turkey may have missed a crucial opportunity to widen its influence and have more say in the region.
The Baghdad Summit has set the winds of change in the Middle East. It may result in bettering relations between the Middle Eastern nations and end the role of the United States as a central facilitator.