• العربية
  • کوردی

The Kurdistan Region: epicentre of Macron’s Iraq strategy

A meeting between Nechirvan Barzani and Macron, source: Arknews
Kurdistan

8/28/2021 6:46:00 PM

 On the sidelines of the dramatic global changes and regional events, and in the midst of many complications, Iraq held a conference. Therefore, the Mediterranean Institute for Regional Studies, to analyze the regional situation, considered it necessary to address President Macron’s visit, as well as the position of the Kurdistan Region and the role of its political figures in front of the perspectives and visions of national and foreign specialists and for different levels. Here, an expert in EU-Kurdish affairs " Zana Kurda", he is holding a PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels. Presents his views on the subject:

 

The Kurdistan Region: Epicenter of Macron’s Iraq strategy

As part of a two-day visit to Iraq, French President Emanuel Macron will pay an official visit to the Kurdistan Region on Sunday for meetings with Kurdish leaders. The official visit to Baghdad and Erbil is a yet another signal of France’s intensified engagement in Iraq. While bulk of the media attention has gone to a regional summit on Saturday, the Baghdad Conference for Cooperation and Partnership, Macron’s visit to Erbil has particular significance in conveying the crucial role the French leadership foresees for the Kurdistan Region within its Iraq and Middle East strategies.

France’s renewed engagement in Iraq

Macron has made intensive engagement in Iraq an important cornerstone of France’s strategy in the Middle East. As one of the two global powers designing and steering the fate of much of the Middle East throughout the 20th century, Iraq has traditionally been a country of interest for France. As such, France has had a significant leading role in major turning points in Iraq in 1991, and more recently in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS). Both instances are marked by the constructive role of France in supporting Iraq. Aiming at playing the grandeur role in the Middle East, the French strategy pursued by Macron places a particular focus on Iraq as a factor for achieving stability in the Middle East. Furthermore, France has expressed its ambition for intensified trade and energy cooperation with Iraq, which should increase French’s stake in Iraq’s total crude oil export to 8 per cent. 

French solidarity and support for the Kurds in Iraq

The war against ISIS marked another chapter of French solidarity and support for the Kurds in Iraq in particular. Together with the United States and the United Kingdom, France played a historic role in establishing a no-fly zone in Iraq providing a protective cover for the Kurds. It was a decisive factor for the emergence of the Kurdistan Region as a formal entity in Iraq. Moreover, France has in recent years provided crucial political support to Erbil. Following  the independence referendum in September 2017, Baghdad took unprecedented harsh measures aimed at total isolation of the Kurdistan Region. It was only following diplomatic intervention by France that Baghdad returned to the negotiation table. Unlike other powers that opted for silence, France acted swiftly and decisively, inviting both Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani and then Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Paris. In terms of substance, the French policy did not differ greatly from that of other powers, placing a strong emphasis on Iraq’s sovereignty, while also expressing support for the Kurdistan Region as a constitutional entity. The difference, however, was in the willingness and confidence to intervene and exert political and diplomatic pressure on Baghdad. That intervention has been considered as one of the successful instances of French diplomacy under Macron.

Macron – Barzani friendship as an emerging factor

Macron is set to meet with former President Masoud Barzani in Erbil. The objective of that meeting is to convey French gratitude for the major sacrifices the Kurdish Peshmerga has made in the war against ISIS. The French president will then hold meeting with President Nechirvan Barzani, accompanied by Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani and the Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani. This will be the fifth Barzani-Macron meeting. Their first meeting was at the Elysee in December 2017, upon an official invitation by the French president. Marking the start of a series of meeting between the two presidents, that meeting gave a major boost to the Kurdistan Region’s morale. It also marked the beginning of a successful diplomatic campaign by President Barzani aimed at breaking the Kurdistan Region out of isolation following the referendum. Personal friendship matters in politics. The Barzani-Macron friendship should therefore be regarded as a supporting factor in achieving the mutual objectives of France and Iraq. Moreover, the friendship will be another reassurance that President Macron is continuing on the path of other great French friends of the Kurds,  most notably Madame Danielle Mitterrand, former Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and former President Francois Hollande.  
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Zana Kurda is an expert in EU-Kurdish affairs, holding a PhD from the Vrije Universiteit Brussels.