Iraqi administration condemned calls by a US think-tank-sponsored conference for Iraqi normalization of ties with Israel. In another corner of Iraq, millions are attending the massive Arbaeen ritual.
Officials at Iraqi administration smashed a call by a conference in Erbil for Iraqi normalization of ties with Israel. The Friday conference was held in Iraqi Kurdistan as a step to follow on the route of Abraham accords.
Few hundreds of people from Iraq participated in Erbil conference, which was unprecedented Iraq. Iraq, along with its neighbors, is a long-time opponent of Israel and its regional policies. The event’s founder was the Center for Peace Communications (CPC), a think-tank centered in New York. The CPC is attempting to push for normalization of ties between Tel Aviv and Arab nations while also trying to build bridges among civil society organizations.
Kurdistan administration, a regional government under the power of Baghdad, enjoys friendly relations with Tel Aviv. This is while Baghdad had an active role in the Arab fight against Israel with whom it keeps on denying diplomatic relations.
The UAE, Sudan, Bahrain, and Morocco have been the forerunners in normalizing the relationships with Israel over the last year. It occurred as part of a Trump-brokered arrangements known as the Abraham Accords.
“We demand our integration into the Abraham Accords. Just as these agreements provide for diplomatic relations between the signatories and Israel, we also want normal relations with Israel” said one of the participants in the conference while reading the concluding statement.
The conference for Iraqi normalization occurs while millions of Iraqi are attending a massive rally to the city of Karbala. Arbaeen pilgrims are typically against Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. In days ending on Monday and Tuesday, millions are holding a public gathering in Karbala denouncing submission to tyranny and injustice.
Iraqi Normalization in Time of Arbaeen!
The conference was soon followed by a statement by local government in which Iraqi government totally smashed the assembly. A statement by Iraqi government stressed on the lack of competency by attendees of the conference to talk on such national issues.
Part of the statement said the conference “was not representative of the population’s [opinion] and that of residents in Iraqi cities, in whose name these individuals purported to speak.”
Barham Saleh, Iraqi president, also rejected calls made by the conference. Saleh is of Kurdish background, but finds the new moves against the nationals and regional interests of the country.
Religious figures like Muqtada Sadr also sharply attacked the conference and its attendees. Labeling them as traitors, these groups called for decisive legal action against the organizers and attendees of the conference.
The American Center for Peace Communications is at center of accusations for what Iraqis call an interference in local policies. The American think-tanks may have organized the conference as a strategy to deepen the ethnic and administerial rifts in Iraq.
The co-occurrence of Iraqi Normalization conference with Arbaeen pilgrimage reinforces the opinions regarding US motivations. Iraqis believe that Arbaeen, with its tens of millions of pilgrims from across the world, is a chance for Muslim groups inside and outside the country to reach a resolution for shared challenges.
Arbaeen marks the end of a forty-day morning period for Muslim leader Imam Hussain. Hussain was killed on ‘Ashura’ day in 680 AD in a fight against the oppressor ruler of the time.
In 2019, more than 20 million people participated in Arbaeen, concerning many group about potential consequence of such a solidarity. As such, the accidental nature of co-occurrence of Iraqi Normalization conference and Arbaeen pilgrimage seems far from the truth.