Paris: Michel Abu Najm

Next Tuesday, Jordan will host, on the shores of the Dead Sea and at the King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Center, the “Baghdad 2” summit, which is intended to be a continuation of the “Baghdad 1” summit that was held in the Iraqi capital at the end of August last year. What is new about the upcoming summit is that it will include two new members, Bahrain and Oman, along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Turkey, Iran and, of course, Iraq and France.

And if the invitations were issued from Amman, then Paris and Baghdad constitute the organizers of the summit. French presidential sources, when presenting them to the conference, refrained from revealing the level of representation for this version, specifically the level of Saudi and Iranian representation. It should be noted that the two countries were represented last year by their foreign ministers.

Arab diplomatic sources in Paris reported that France “pressed hard” for the conference to take place before the end of this year, which is what will happen. The delay in what is intended to be an annual summit is due to the internal political situation in Iraq, as it was difficult to call for a summit before a president was elected and a prime minister was appointed. It is also remarkable that Syria, Iraq’s neighbor, is absent, as in the first edition, for well-known reasons. However, the absence of Lebanon this year also raises the problem of the criteria on which the invitations were made. As the argument that the call is confined to the neighboring countries of Iraq does not stand; Where neither Egypt nor the UAE nor Bahrain or Oman have common borders with Iraq. Neither France nor Iraq gave a reason for the absence of Lebanon, which suffers from problems, some of which are similar to those suffered by Iraq. The French sources pointed out that the summit will be held in two phases: the first, open session, followed by a closed session after a break.

According to the French vision, Paris aspires for the summit to raise issues that concern all countries in the region, without exception, such as the consequences of global warming, food security related to the results of the Russian war on Ukraine, desertification, connecting electrical networks, and dealing with natural disasters… French sources confirmed that President Emmanuel Macron will address For his part, he mentioned some regional issues, including Lebanon and Syria, and that he will deal in particular with the file of Syrian refugees in neighboring countries, including Lebanon, which is mired in its political, economic, political, financial and social crises. And the French sources stressed that Macron “does not hesitate in all his meetings” to raise the Lebanese file, as he did with US President Biden during his state visit late last month, or with the Emir of Qatar last Wednesday on the occasion of his attendance at the semi-final football match for his country’s team against the Moroccan team. It should be noted that the Director General of the Lebanese General Security, Major General Abbas Ibrahim, who plays an important political role, visited Baghdad at the beginning of the week and met with the Iraqi presidents and government. The Lebanese file was at the top of their talks, and he asked them to convey the details of the Lebanese situation to the summit. Paris is seeking to play a role in facilitating the election of a new president in Lebanon, while the country has been suffering from a vacuum at the head of the executive authority since the end of last October, and nothing on the horizon indicates that it will soon be filled.

Paris confirms that the summit was based on “the principle of providing a framework that includes Iraq and the main active countries in the region at one table to deliberate first on Iraq’s affairs, as well as dialogue on launching common issues for the region,” adding that these issues are faced by all countries, regardless of the existing political system in them. The French sources stressed Macron’s “attachment” to Iraq, which he visited twice during his first term, as France has interests and investments in it. During his presidency of the Iraqi government, Paris provided Mustafa Al-Kazemi with various types of support, and Macron officially invited him to visit Paris. However, the change of government in Baghdad will not have an impact on France’s desire to strengthen its relations with Iraq, which it wants to help open new political, economic and security horizons away from the American-Iranian attraction to it. French diplomacy also wants to bridge the views of the parties involved in Iraq. It has previously expressed its great concern about the Iranian and Turkish attacks on areas in Iraqi Kurdistan, and it has condemned this and considers it a threat to its security and stability. These sources mentioned Macron’s assertion last year that Paris was “ready to stand by Iraq militarily and in the manner he deems fit.” France is still part of the international coalition to fight terrorism, and it enjoys serious relations with the Kurdistan region and the central government.

The fact of the matter is that the next edition of the summit takes place under more difficult circumstances than the first summit. At the regional level, negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file were in full swing, and there were expectations that the 2015 agreement could be revived with some modifications. The situation is that the horizon of reaching an agreement has completely disappeared. Likewise, Iran did not know the popular protests that had been going on for three months, and criticism was not directed at it because of the military support it provided to Russia. From here, there is a reading that suggests that Iran will be “more intransigent” in its handling of regional issues because of its need for pressing cards, including the Iraqi card. As for Turkey, it suffers from severe internal political crises, and many believe that its external “aggressiveness”, whether in Syria or Iraq, aims to divert attention from what is happening at home.

Macron’s visit to Jordan will not be limited to the summit alone; As it will be accompanied by a bilateral visit that will provide an opportunity for the French and Jordanian parties to discuss the good bilateral relations in general, and a closed meeting will be held between the Jordanian King Abdullah II and President Macron, followed by an expanded meeting that includes the delegations of the two parties. The French sources noted the trust relationship between Macron and Abdullah II, and stressed that Jordan is “an ally in the war on terrorism” and “a strong player” in the fight against extremism. The two parties have strong economic relations, while the French Development Agency plays a remarkable role in Jordan in terms of its involvement in basic development projects. Macron is accompanied, in addition to the foreign and defense ministers, by a delegation of French businessmen and personalities that play a role in the region.

Finally, and contrary to what many Lebanese had expected, the French president will move from Jordan to Egypt to meet the commanders and military personnel of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, as is his habit of spending year-end holidays with members of the French armed forces. The Lebanese had hoped that he would go to southern Lebanon, where the French forces are participating in the international force that has been stationed for decades on the Lebanese-Israeli border and is called UNIFIL. The presidential military sources refused to disclose the whereabouts of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in the Red Sea or the Mediterranean, which is one of the pillars of the French defense. France does not have another aircraft carrier. “Charles de Gaulle” is accompanied by a nuclear submarine, frigates, a refueling ship and reconnaissance aircraft, in addition to European parts.