On June 27, leaders from Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan met in Baghdad to discuss opportunities for strategic political, economic, security, and cultural partnerships between the three nations. The trilateral summit came as the three Middle Eastern nations are reconsidering their geopolitical roles in the region. The three countries are also strategizing around boosting economic growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. This new alliance is particularly significant for Egypt and Iraq, as the two countries have shared a rocky history. Experts predict that both nations will reap substantial economic rewards from the newly established partnership.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi attended the recent summit. The summit marks the fourth time the three leaders have convened since March 2019 and the first visit by an Egyptian president to Iraq since Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. The countries are especially interested in fostering cooperation around economic, political, security, cultural, and educational issues through a partnership al-Kadhimi has dubbed the “New Levant” alliance. Additionally, Egypt and Iraq are both hoping to broaden their regional relationships.
The latest summit primarily focused on cooperation around economic, investment, energy, and security issues. In particular, Egypt and Iraq’s leaders discussed opportunities for boosting bilateral economic cooperation. Currently, Iraq is Egypt’s 25th largest investor, with 3,329 Iraqi companies working on investments valued at approximately $490 million. 25% of the investments made by Iraqi companies are in the industrial sector, 24% are in the agricultural sector, 20% in the service sector, and 20% in the tourism sector. Egypt hopes to expand the amount of Iraqi investment in the country. Iraq is also a lucrative export destination for Egypt. Currently, Egypt’s largest exports to the country include furniture, cotton, medicines, oils, tiles, crops, petroleum, and iron. Its largest imports from Iraq are chocolate and cocoa products.
In addition, the three countries discussed advancing projects in the energy and electrical interconnection sectors. For example, Iraq and Egypt have discussed connecting their electricity grids to decrease the nations’ dependence on electricity exports from Iran. Further, Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan are currently working on a project that would link an oil pipeline at Basra port in southern Iraq with the port of Aqaba in Jordan and with Egypt. This project will allow Jordan to purchase Iraqi oil for a lower price than the global average. It will also enable Egypt to reap the benefits of refining some Iraqi oil within its borders. This project is particularly significant for Egypt, as it aims to become a regional hub for energy in the Middle East. Additionally, the investments and projects discussed will confer critical benefits to all three nations as they struggle to promote economic growth in their countries following COVID-19 induced downturns.
This new era of Egypt-Iraq cooperation will also allow Iraqi leaders to rebuild their country and economy in the wake of almost four decades of sectarian and extremist violence. Iraq is especially hoping to lean on Egyptian and Jordanian companies to fuel reconstruction projects. Given that all three countries are currently cash-strapped, Egypt and Iraq have agreed to exchange Iraqi oil for Egypt’s assistance with reconstruction efforts.
The newly-established Levant Alliance is already opening up new economic and political cooperation opportunities for Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan. The new partnership is slated to produce numerous economic benefits for the three countries, which is especially important as the Middle Eastern nations seek to boost economic growth after the COVID-19 pandemic and years of regional conflict.