It is true that the procedures for opening isolation between Iraq and its Arab surroundings began timidly years ago, especially since the government of Dr. Haider al-Abadi through the government of Adel Abdul-Mahdi, but it was largely entrenched during the government of former Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Al-Kazemi, who succeeded in the foreign policy files of Iraq, including with the Gulf and Arab surroundings, paved the way for what happened after him in this regard, especially with the agreement of the Arab Gulf states to organize Iraq the “Gulf 25” (the 25th Arab Gulf Cup) football tournament in the city of Basra in the far south of Iraq. However, what happened when the championship was organized and the unprecedented atmosphere that accompanied it, especially in terms of the relationship between the Gulf and Iraqi audiences, was one of the most important factors in turning the page on the past completely, and starting a new page between the Iraqis and their Arab brothers in the Gulf.
Naming the “Gulf 25” tournament in the name of the Arabian Gulf is something that provoked Iran to the point of summoning the Iraqi ambassador in Tehran, Naseer Abdul Hussein, and handing him a letter protesting the naming. It is well known that Tehran, unlike the capitals of the Arab region, has been calling it the “Persian Gulf”. On the other hand, after all this success achieved at the tournament level, the Iraqi government tried as much as possible to avoid provoking Iran, and this is with the knowledge that Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani emphasized that Iraq is an Arab country, and the Gulf system is Arab.
However, whenever the relationship appears to be completely different between Arabs and Iraqis, Tehran escalates its protest in this regard, although it did not do so throughout the past twenty-four sessions. This matter was interpreted by Iraqi observers as a protest not so much against naming the “Gulf” as “Arab”, but rather a protest against what appeared to be an unprecedented Iraqi-Gulf cohesion. And they saw that it practically meant the failure of the “Iranian project” aimed at creating Iraqi-Arab isolation, and perpetuating it throughout twenty years of political and media pumping… which collapsed as soon as the Gulf public and media people began entering the outskirts of the city of Basra.
Iraqis pass by a building on which giant flags of the Gulf states were raised in Basra last Thursday (AFP)
Don’t whistle for crises
In Iraq, nothing is usually zeroed, from the financial budget to the final accounts. Because of the accumulation of problems and the inheritance of crises, people no longer distinguish between the year in which people seek relief and the year that is often a year of drought.
This is happening in a country whose subsoil is full of oil, and its surface is filled with two rivers that have been called throughout history by their names “Mesopotamia” once, or “the country between the two rivers” again, and “the land of blackness” each time.
At the end of 2021, 20 percent of Iraqis applied to polling stations in order to bring in a new government, while 80 percent of them preferred to stay in their homes in protest against the state of democracy, the weight of the occupation, the problems of elections and the political class. And while it should have been, according to the rules of formal democracy in Iraq, that the government be formed within a maximum of three months, the formation was delayed for a whole year.
As the elections were held on the tenth of October 2022. The vote on the government headed by Muhammad Shia’a al-Sudani took place on November 27, 2022. While the Iraqis were looking forward to a new year with a new government and new promises, we see that they are accustomed to a “sequential” One for joy and sadness together. The joy was embodied in the preparation for the “Gulf 25” football championship and its results that were not expected by all circles, while the sadness erupted with the eruption of what was considered the largest financial corruption scandal in the country … it deservedly deserved the title of “theft of the century”.
This theft was announced in “overtime” between the departure of Al-Kazemi and his government staff and the arrival of Al-Sudani and his government. Hence, the “blood” of that theft was almost lost among the tribes of uncontrolled corruption in Iraq, amid increasing campaigns of exchange of accusations between supporters of the previous government and supporters of the subsequent government.
Al-Sudani, who faced the accumulated crises that are being recycled year after year, worked to deal calmly with the external and internal files. As he strengthened Iraq’s Arab relations through his visits to Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and added to it a lot of what appears to be a willingness to reach an understanding with the Arab community after the start of the “Gulf 25” tournament in Basra, and his statements, which were met with great cordiality by the Arabs, provoked Tehran in return.
Iraqi bloggers and media professionals, for their part, met the Iranian provocations with astonishment in terms of the fact that Tehran has no right to interfere in an Iraqi sovereign issue. In this context, Iraqi journalist Muntadhar Nasser, editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Al-Alam Al-Jadeed, told Asharq Al-Awsat, “It is surprising that the Iraqi ambassador to Tehran was summoned, in protest against the Iraqi prime minister’s use of the official name for the Arabian Gulf instead of the Persian.” He added, “This summons is contrary to diplomatic norms, and a dangerous precedent that shows Iran’s efforts to interfere and control even the official Iraqi discourse.”
Nasser continued, saying, “States are free to name their lands, regions, waters, and landmarks, and no other country has the right to impose its national names.” And then he went on, “Regarding the official designation in the United Nations, as Iran claims, it was obtained by Pahlavi Iran, an ally of Britain and the United States at the time, in the absence of time during the formation of the United Nations in 1945. At that time, some Gulf states had not been formed, and it was Iraq is preoccupied with its internal problems and the problems of other Arab countries that are under colonialism or have just emerged from it, in addition to being preoccupied with important external alliances. Thus, Tehran took advantage of the situation to present old maps that it alone recognizes, and withhold other, more important maps, which refer to the Arabic name for the Gulf, which some of those maps attribute to Basra, and this matter cannot continue forever. Nasser concluded, stressing that “the length of the Arab coast on the Gulf is 3,490 km, compared to the Iranian coast, which does not exceed 2,440 km in length, in addition to the fact that the Arab countries bordering the Gulf amount to 7 Arab countries, and Iran is the only Persian state.”
Fireworks light up the sky of the Basra stadium (Photo: Issa Al-Dubaisi)
– “The Thousand Miles Distance”… a phase that has ended
Politically, although Iraq has made great strides during the last five years in the context of improving its Arab relations, especially with the Gulf states, the picture was not clear in terms of media, culture, tourism and economy. While the political development in the relationship reflected a comfortable atmosphere at all levels, what happened during the football tournament in Basra exceeded all expectations. Then, after some viewed the Iraqi-Gulf relationship as if it were a “distance of a thousand miles” that needs to start with a single step, and it began politically over recent years after the long years of isolation, the Iraqis celebrated the Gulf people and the image that the Gulf media conveyed about Iraq. It’s like covering the entire “distance of a thousand miles” in one step.
For its part, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the “Gulf 25” championship contributed to strengthening Iraq’s political status in the Arab, regional and international arenas. The ministry said, following a symposium organized by the Ministry’s Foreign Service Institute entitled “Foreign Policy and Sports Diplomacy, a Message of Peace and Affection among Peoples”, in which a number of Arab and foreign politicians and heads of diplomatic missions, researchers and experts participated, that “during the symposium it was emphasized that organizing the 25th Gulf Championship In Basra, it is an entry point to strengthening bilateral relations between Iraq and the Arab Gulf states, and it also constitutes another additional factor that contributes to strengthening Iraq’s political position in the Arab, regional, and international arenas, and provides it with broader horizons.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, the Iraqi Minister of Culture, Dr. Ahmed Al-Fakak Al-Badrani, declared, “The 25th Gulf Championship represented a quantum leap in the political, economic, cultural, and tourism tracks, as well as in community relations. As it opened the doors of Iraq and its airports to receive the Gulf and Arab brothers, and at the same time, it delivered a message to the international community, the content of which is that Iraq has become a safe area free of terrorism that disturbs politicians. And the Minister of Culture added, “This championship presented the most wonderful image of the Iraqi, who is proud of his original nature.” Also, Al-Badrani confirmed that «the historical show that took place at the opening of the tournament reflected the most wonderful pictures of the stages of Iraq’s civilizations up to the present day, and the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities had a pioneering role and clear fingerprints, including the fingerprints of the artists who attended, and the costumes that were shown during the opening or closing. Indeed, we spared no effort, and our national teams showed it, along with logistical support such as hotels, restaurants and museums.
As for the head of the Union of Arab Journalists and the head of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate, Moayad Al-Lami, he said in a statement to Asharq Al-Awsat that “the great success was achieved through this championship through the support of the Arab and Gulf media by conveying the true positive image of Iraq in general, and of Basra in particular, as well as The major social phenomenon through generosity and welcome. And although it was expressed spontaneously… it also gave an integrated picture that reflected all the elements of success and the possibility of investing in this success. Al-Lami – who is also a member of the Supreme Preparatory Committee for the tournament – added, “We will work to have intensive activities and events in Baghdad so that colleagues from all the Arab Gulf countries come, and then see for themselves the other non-stereotypical image of Iraq. This would perpetuate this success and build on it at all levels.” And after Al-Lami indicated that “Gulf channels conveyed a wonderful picture of Iraq to the Gulf citizen, which will have positive repercussions in the future,” he explained, saying, “This success will not be limited to the relationship between Iraq and the Arab Gulf states, but will extend to a serious relationship between Iraq and all media professionals.” Arabs in all Arab countries. In particular, we chair the Union of Arab Journalists, and therefore, we will work on preparing many events and initiatives.
A very clear message
In the same context, Haider Al-Mulla, an Iraqi politician and former deputy in the Iraqi parliament, said in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat that “the Gulf Cup Championship (Basra 25) delivered a very clear message in terms of the syndrome of politics and sports together… which is that marketing any political process It needs a new management and understanding based on embracing all competencies and innovations in all fields and fields. Al-Mulla explained that “when countries embrace the artist, the intellectual, the athlete and the scientist, they are practicing a successful marketing process.”
For his part, Dr. Saif al-Din al-Darraji, a researcher in foreign policy and international security affairs, commented in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat by saying that “both the media and politics bear part of the responsibility … The media bears part of what was mentioned above, because it was not seeking the form It is reliable to highlight the true image of the people’s desire to open up and coexist effectively with their Arab surroundings, especially the Gulf states. What happened in Basra was, and will remain, a bright spot in the history of popular diplomacy, which for years to come established structural foundations for friendship and brotherhood relations that will be translated into projects, ideas and adoptions that will enhance Iraq’s role and international standing. Concerning politics, Dr. Al-Daradji said, “It bears, as a tool of governance, a greater part of the responsibility for failing to open up positively – despite some timid attempts – and to strengthen political, security, economic and social relations, as a result of the lack of mutual trust and the rationalization of positions for the accounts of multiple countries that use Iraq as an arena to settle scores.” . This requires the presence of young personalities who are not ideological and are not affected by the past decade, but rather seek to build balanced relations on the basis of preserving the supreme national interests.
As for the professor of international media at the Iraqi University, Dr. Fadel Al-Badrani, he considered in his interview with Al-Sharq Al-Awsat that “the political kitchens were the basis for the media’s transformation into opposing platforms, and it moved towards the process of digging into the depths of the dark corners that led to the production of conflicts and tensions that lasted for two decades. .. It represents the loss of the gains of Arab brotherhood between Iraq and the countries of the Arab Gulf on the social, economic and cultural levels. Al-Badrani continued, “Time has become a positive pressure factor towards changing the compass in relations from divergence to rapprochement, about five years ago.” He concluded by saying, “Sports diplomacy was the best way to create a positive political climate that helped integration and interaction between these countries, as they are of a public nature, and we hope that it will develop towards communication that serves people within the framework of Arab brotherhood.”