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In-Depth Research & Reports May 10, 2021

Europe needs to take a lead on Iraq

By Christian Koch

Why stability in the country is critical for all of the Middle East

As it is beginning, the Biden administration has an opportunity to refocus US attention in the Middle East, and in one key country in particular—Iraq. But this region is not the only critical policy focus for the United States. Given the critical role that Iraq’s stability plays in the security of the wider Middle East, it is essential that Europe proactively takes a lead in maintaining long-term political, economic, and security involvement in Iraq.

In a new Atlantic Council issue brief, “Europe Needs to Take a Lead on Iraq,” Dr. Christian Koch argues that Europe has already invested in Iraq’s stability and, going forward, should lead in policy areas demanding immediate and continued attention. Deliberate policy coordination and a European willingness to significantly increase its burden-sharing would be a tangible contribution to the Biden administration’s stated goal of rebuilding alliances and partnerships.

There should be no doubt that the EU faces numerous obstacles to pursuing a realistic and achievable plan for Iraq. However, these concerns should not overshadow the fact that the EU has a real opportunity to advance a positive agenda for Iraq. Europe needs to find the courage and initiative to make Iraq a strong strategic partner, a critical security interest, and a centerpiece of the EU’s policy in the Middle East. Europe must quickly engage the Biden administration in discussions about the future policy approach toward Iraq and clearly signal that Europe is ready to take the lead.

Image: Then-German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen speaks with the speaker of Iraq's parliament Mohammed al-Halbousi in Berlin in February 2019. Source: REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch