Alwaght- Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi is scheduled to visit China on September 19 leading a big delegation comprised of ministers, advisors, and businesspeople. The trip to Beijing comes while the Iraqi politics is, on the one hand, a scene to pressures to remove Abdul Mahdi from his post and, on the other hand, the Iraqi political groups are raising a wide range of opposition to the American actions in the country and some of them even push for a parliamentary bill to expel the US forces operating in Iraq. In the middle of these conditions, Abdul Mahdi’s trip is considerable from home and foreign policy aspects.
Big economic goals in China-Iraq relations
Certainly, one of the key goals driving the Iraqi cabinet’s head is a need to expand the economic and trade relations with one of the world’s biggest economies. This is important to Baghdad to an extent that Abdel Hussein Hunain, the PM’s advisor, in comments on the Beijing visit said that main objectives and points of discussion in this trip will be big projects in transport, services, education, and health. Over the past few months, Iraq and China paved the way for such a visit as Iraqi representatives engaged in an intense program of discussions with the Chinese companies and Baghdad’s annual budget was given a boost through a financing fund founded mutually. The PM’s advisor also hoped that the visit will see the two sides signing big pacts in industry and agriculture, and also the construction of schools, hospitals, routes, railroads, and bridges. All these plans show that just unlike its past, Iraq now eyes a pivot to the East for economic development and realization of its major economic programs. This, thus, means that besides the US and other Western countries, the country’s doors are open also to other actors for investment. ‘
China’s strategic moves towards “one belt, one road” project
The “one belt, one road” initiative is one of the projects that over the past years was designed by the Chinese government for ambitious economic goals. The $1000 million project was started seven years ago and is aimed at launching a modernized version of the ancient Silk Road that will connect China to the world. One country that could play a major role in this project for China is Iraq. China is the largest buyer of Iraq’s oil. In other words, Baghdad earns the biggest part of its oil income from oil sales to China. This is a ground for the Chinese companies to expand energy investment in Iraq on the one hand. On the other hand, Beijing can materialize its political ambitions in Iraq on the strength of its desirous belt and road initiative.
In fact, Iraq is one of the main points of Chinese focus to implement the “new Silk Road” program. The huge oil reserves and huge oil exportation capacity that is expected to rise to 5 million barrels per day until 2020 are the advantage points that make Baghdad and Erbil take a center stage in Chinese strategy markers’ attention. The Chinese leaders know it very well that to implement the next stage of their ambition and enlarge their investment for the new Silk Road project they need a considerable presence in Iraq to invest in the Arab country’s economic sectors. This issue more comes to attention and importance if we see the Iraqis show zeal for China to broaden investment and economic presence in their country.
Abdul Mahdi seeks to mend his legitimacy
Yet another drive for the trip is personal and politically-motivated. Abdul Mahdi seeks to stabilize his position in the country’s politics and as PM. Over the past months, he has been a target to serious criticism from the political parties, even his allies who brought him to power. Now he wants to take back part of his lost legitimacy. The PM, on the one side, struggles to assert to his political opponents that he is powerfully taking steps towards Iraq’s national interests and is doing his duties without much obsession with the criticism directed against him. On the other side, his China trip is a message to critics who accuse him of inability to take a stance in the face of the American policies. To put it in another way, Baghdad’s tendency to China is a warning shot to the US and is a demand by a large part of the nation’s lawmakers.