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After defeating IS, Iraq has to deal with few more priorities

After defeating IS, Iraq has to deal with few more priorities
Islamic state’s defeat in Iraq is a good thing for Iraq without any doubt. The country can now focus on other issues that have made it a financially crippling nation. For Iraq, the long term test will be how it sustains relations with its surrounding Arab countries through trade and freedom of movement. For economic reasons, Iraq has to rely on Anbar province and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan to ensure Iraq’s primary gateway to the world remains open.

Anbar is the largest province of Iraq and it shares border with three countries. Those countries are Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Jordan. Due to IS control, Fallujah and Ramadi are completely demolished. Deep distrust among the Iraqis in this province is high.

Violence remains a threat to both Iraqi security forces and civilians in Anbar. In April, an attack at Rutba had killed 10 troops of Iraqi force. Rutba was captured by the extremists in May 2014 who quickly proceeded to seize the border.

Iraq has taken measures to enhance security along the highway connecting Baghdad to Jordan. In the month of March, joint effort between Iraqi “We Are Coming, Nineveh” Operations Command and the Iraqi East Anbar Operations unit had led to arrest of top IS leaders.

IS has become weak in Iraq, though spillover of violence due to Syria’s civil war is concerning for Iraq. Hundreds of Syrian government troops, bolstered by some-3,000 Iranian-backed Shia militia troops, along with tanks, have moved into the desert town of Sabaa Biyar near where the Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian borders meet.
The move, likely made by the Assad regime to secure the Damascus-Baghdad highway, was met with a deadly US airstrike on a pro-Assad militia convoy.
This was done to prevent the regime from closing in on the US Special Forces that are based at the al Tanf border facility in Syria near the Jordanian and Iraqi border. It is now appears that the US intends to prevent the Syrian government from reestablishing its own land route to its ally, Iran.
Despite wariness amongst the Jordanian security establishment of Iran’s recent activities near the border and Iraq becoming part of the “Iranian land corridor,” Jordan has taken some tentative steps towards normalizing relations with Damascus after the Syrian Civil War.

Jordan’s military officials have paid visits to Damascus and Moscow along with being the only predominantly Sunni Arab country to attend peace talks in Astana.
Establishing a solid trade relationship with Jordan will be paramount since the majority of the Sunni world remains apprehensive of forging a new relationship with Iraq due to the heavy presence of Iran in the country.
The regional conflicts have taken their toll on Jordan’s economy. With a slow growth rate and an extremely high budget deficit, the Kingdom has struggled to attract tourism and to satisfy an increasingly restive youth. However, Jordan has not only remained stable, it has also successfully managed to retain its place in Washington’s foreign policy arena, especially with the arrival of the impulsive Trump Administration.

King Abdullah has so far done well at maintaining the US-Jordan strategic relationship as well as guiding the new president through the nuances of Middle East politics. Baghdad will likely follow Jordan’s lead as it navigates its fresh relationship with the White House.
The Hashemite Kingdom has been a primary point of entry into conflict-ridden Iraq since the US occupation. Government development projects, military personnel, business travelers, and cultural exchanges programs between the West and Iraq all typically are funneled through Jordan. Due to Iraq’s conflicts, many Jordanians regard the Iraqi refugees with a strong dose of suspicion. Iraq is still heavily dependent on Jordan as a gateway to the outside world, since the long isolated country has few other options.

Iraq’s relationship with Jordan is paramount due to the misgivings of its southern neighbor, Saudi Arabia. For instance, Iraq’s southern neighbor, Saudi Arabia, famously contracted Airbus Group to build a 600 mile border barrier along the Iraqi border. Recently, however, relations have slowly been looking up with the Saudis. Iraq was pleased that the Arar gateway to Saudi Arabia, almost 280 miles south of Ramadi, reopened in the summer of 2016. The flow of Iraqi religious pilgrims was able to continue for the first time since the start of the 2003 Iraq War. Relations are far from perfect, however.
The recent release of a Qatari hunting party from the country’s royal al-Thani family, facilitated in conjunction with a population transfer deal in Syria along with ransom payments to the Iraqi Shia militia Kata’ib Hezbollah will make future dealings will the Arab Gulf States difficult. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had expressed disappointment on the incident.
Updated 06 Jun 2017 | Soruce: Global Risk Insight | By S.Seal
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