Iraq’s Arab League Presidency: Wasted Opportunity?

By Mustafa al-Kadhimi for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A few days ago, Iraq handed over the Arab League presidency to Qatar a year after taking the reins, thus marking its return to the Arab political sphere and confirming its intention to occupy its natural space in the Middle Eastern balance of power after having achieved full sovereignty.

At first glance, one would think that Iraq was unfortunate to have taken command of the Arab League when the region was experiencing unprecedented turmoil and as the Arab Spring revolutions swept across it, successively changing regimes through popular uprisings that changed the Arab mood and coincided with the outbreak of the bloody conflict in Syria and its surrounding regional divisions. These complex conditions may have constituted, however, a perfect chance for Iraq to succeed in filling its seat as head of the Arab League for a full year.

Iraq, whose political system is still affiliated with the emerging regimes in the Middle East — which were until two years ago the preserve of old political regimes whose rule extended for decades — found itself more comfortable and experienced in terms of dealing with the recent Arab Spring regimes, especially in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen. Its relations with those countries have become better than they were under the previous regimes.

Moreover, Iraq received the presidency at a time when the Arab League, founded in the 1940s, needed different approaches and systems to go with the changing Arab mood and the emergence of trends that favor standards of modern democracy, human rights, peaceful transfer of power and ballot boxes. All those terms are supposed to be points of strength for Iraq, such that it can offer experience in them.

What’s more, Iraq received the presidency in the midst of the Syrian crisis that had been raging near its borders, a crisis that it affects and is affected by. Iraq, which fought a civil war and was plagued by security turmoil, could turn into a real reference for countries that are witnessing increasing turbulence and need more expertise in this area.

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