CAIRO - It was a highly touted summit, with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustapha Kadhimi reaching out to potential allies Egypt and Jordan in what appeared to be a bid to loosen Iran's grip on Iraqi politics. Pro-Iranian militias have been accused of interfering in Iraqi government decisions and attacking protesters who oppose them.
Arab media billed the meetings as an attempt to build an alliance of regional states that could eventually neutralize Iranian influence.
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, however, was quick to invite Kadhimi to visit Tehran, following Kadhimi’s trip to Amman and the visit to Washington to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump.
While in Washington, Kadhimi said during an interview with Iraqi TV that he was hoping to shore up regional alliances, amid a climate of mutual respect.
Kadhimi, who took office in May, said that Iraq respects its neighbors and expects their respect in return. He said his visit to Jordan will help improve ties with Amman and further dialogue with Egypt in a bid to strengthen economic ties among the three countries and discuss regional developments. The three nations, he adds, may one day play a key role in the region.
Iraqi, Jordanian and Egyptian leaders have met twice before in recent years, once in September of 2019 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly and in March of that year in Cairo.
The Saudi-owned Asharq al-awsat newspaper reported Tuesday that Iran was "worried about a rapprochement among Egypt, Iraq and Jordan," and about the rise of "new regional alliances."
Paul Sullivan, a professor at the U.S. National Defense University, told VOA that a potential new alliance among Iraq, Jordan and Egypt could develop into a “blocking line,” as in football and rugby, to counter the growing malign influence of Iran.
"There are always those who will want to thwart this," he added. According to Arab media, it is not immediately clear if Kadhimi has the political clout to circumvent pro-Iranian Shi'ite leaders who are likely to oppose the move.
Theodore Karasik, an analyst with Washington-based Gulf State Analytics, told VOA that one of the key issues the three leaders focused on was the recent peace deal between the United Arab Emirates and Israel. He also said the Israeli-Palestinian issue "is front and center" in the talks and that it is important to three countries “for their own internal reasons."
Arab media reported that Saudi Arabia could eventually join Iraq, Jordan and Egypt in a regional alliance. Several Arab analysts suggest that Prime Minister Kadhimi may also be hoping to visit Saudi Arabia amid efforts to counterbalance relations with neighboring Iran.