Diplomacy

Report: Three Iraqi Delegations Visited Israel, Met with Government Officials

In a sign of the warming ties between Israel and Arab countries, three Iraqi delegations visited the Jewish State in recent months, while the leader of Iraq’s Ummah Party Mithal al-Alusi recently said that establishing ties with Israel was in his country’s “interest.”

The Times of Israel reported on Sunday that the Jewish State recently hosted three delegations of senior Iraqis and that the delegates, who were not officially identified for security purposes, met with Israeli governments officials.

The delegations comprised of 15 political and religious figures from both the Sunni and Shiite communities also held meetings with Israeli academics and visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial.

Reports suggest that the men were not from Iraqi Kurdistan but rather from “Iraq proper — that is, Baghdad,” indicating the groundwork is being laid for normalized relations between Israel and Iraq.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali al-Hakim came under fire from political opponents this week, after expressing support for the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Iraq is still officially at war with Israel and its passports are not valid for travel to the Jewish State.

Israel meanwhile has shown interest in fostering cultural and political ties with Iraq, which was once home to one of the largest Jewish communities outside of Israel. In addition, the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region in northern Iraq has long seen Israel as a potential ally, especially after Jerusalem came out in support of Kurdish independence in September 2017.

In related news, the leader of Iraq’s Ummah Party Mithal al-Alusi earlier this month, in an interview with a Kuwaiti newspaper, called on Iraq to establish ties with the Jewish State and expressed hope to see an Iraqi embassy in Israel at some point in the future.

Al-Alusi, who visited Israel on numerous occasions, referred to diplomatic relations with Israel as “our [Iraqi] interest.” The lawmaker noted that he does not want Baghdad’s interests to be solely tied to “Abu Mazen,” the name by which Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is commonly referred to in the Arab World.

The Jerusalem Post reported that al-Alusi also blasted Iraq’s intimate ties to Iran and described Tehran’s expansionist agenda as a threat to Iraq’s national interest and regional stability. The Iraqi official warned that Iran has been amassing power because “it is the most insane actor, which gambles with the lives of its sons, its people and its history in order to [realize] the Iranian leaders’ false vision.”

[Photo: AP Archive / YouTube ]