The New “Levant” initiative: The attempt to make Iraq part of the Arab-Israeli alliance
A trilateral summit was held between Abdelfatah Al Sisi, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and King Hussain, the respective leaders of Egypt, Iraq and Jordan. The summit was held to discuss “The New Levant Initiative'', supposedly launched to boost trade and security meant to gradually work towards economic integration.
Initially the summit and its stated goals could be seen as a positive development because Iraq should make steps to become a regional player. However, upon closer scrutiny it will become visible that this initiative is to the detriment of Iraq.
Many have criticized the Levant initiative which was originally started by Iraqi prime minister Mustafa al Kadhimi. The main point of criticism was that “The New Levant Initiative” ironically excludes Syria, the historical heart of the Levant or “Bilad Al Sham”. The Levant Initiative was launched by the Iraqi prime minister after his visit to the white house. The timing of the Levant Initiative prompted many to interpret this move as succumbing to American pressure to disengage with countries like Syria and Lebanon and as an alternative making a move towards the alliance of American client states that have normalized ties with Israel. This falls in line with American strategic policy aims to tie Iraq to the Gulf for its energy needs.
Both economic and security experts have argued that The New “Levant” initiative is against the interests of Iraq. Being rich in natural resources, Iraq needs access to key markets. Subsequently, access to the Mediterranean becomes a vital interest for Iraq, rendering Syria and Lebanon the strategic depth of Iraq. Therefore, it is imperative to work towards an economical integration with the actual Bilad al Sham. Besides the regional relations, in the long run this infrastructure could serve as a node in the trade between East-Asia and Europe.
In addition to the economic dimension, cooperation on the level of security is a fundamental condition to defeat terrorism. The historical, cultural, economical and geographical ties between Iraq, Syria and Lebanon have created a situation in which conflict in any of the countries affects all of these nations. The battle against the cross nation terrorist group of ISIS exemplifies this reality.
Integration with Egypt and Jordan.
For Iraq, integration with Egypt through Jordan means tying itself to a virtually landlocked country which would require an enormous detour to reach key European markets. Iraqi Oil products would have to pass through a few very narrow straits in order to reach Europe, making trade more expensive and time-consuming. Furthermore, it is expected that part of the deal will be that Iraq will provide heavily subsidized oil to the countries part of the alliance.
Egypt and Jordan are both heavily indebted and are both dependent on American aid. This puts them in a position where they are limited in their sovereignty to serve the interest of their own countries and the region. Rather than the interests of the people it is the dictates of American foreign policy that heavily impacts their regional role. Consequently, Jordan and Egypt have been reduced to tributary nations for the Zionist regime by giving their consent to all the hegemonic aspirations of the American project in the region.
Integrating Iraq with Egypt and Jordan would indirectly make Iraq part of the Arab-Israeli alliance. This role as a tributary nation amounts to killing Iraq's potential to become a key player in the region. Therefore, the attempt to make Iraq part of the Arab-Israeli alliance and concurrently blocking it from having ties with its neighbors should be interpreted as choking the country, which will only exacerbate the current economical and security crises.