“Behind these conferences, there are often plenty of promises that have never been kept”. From the living room of his plush apartment in the Ziyouna neighborhood in eastern Baghdad, Anan, 63, lets out a wry sigh. On the eve of the holding of an unprecedented summit, bringing together on Saturday August 28 in the heart of the Iraqi capital representatives of neighboring powers and President Emmanuel Macron, this faithful of the Syrian Catholic Church, employed in a British company, immediately did an aside to recall how much she esteems France.
→ REPORT. Thanks to the Baghdad summit, Iraq dreams of a regional mediator
“Concerned about taking care of humanity, it was able to open its doors to us. After the conquest by Daesh of northern Iraq, I myself was able to leave, in 2015, to live there, obtaining refugee status ”, she says. Finally caught up six months later by nostalgia for the country, Anan, like many Iraqis, still retains a good image of France.
Why is Emmanuel Macron returning to Iraq?
“France is well perceived in Iraq, because it did not intervene during the American invasion [en 2003, NDLR] and participated very actively in the fight against Daesh ”, explains sociologist Adel Bakawan, president of the French Center for Research on Iraq (CFRI). “In addition, it does not have the same approach as the United States in matters of cultural, economic and social development. But the Iraqis are also well aware that Paris does not have at all the same means as Washington ”.
The French president knows this well, but he also knows the expectations of the Iraqis as the gradual disengagement of the Americans looms in the Iraqi theater, and that the Afghan chaos in recent days has shown the risks of such a withdrawal. Saturday morning August 28, after a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Moustafa al-Kadhimi, Emmanuel Macron reiterated “France’s attachment to the stability of Iraq”, aware that “This attachment begins with the pursuit of the fight against Daesh and the reconstruction of the liberated areas”. “We all know that we must not let our guard down, because Daesh remains a threat”, he hammered.
→ LONG FORMAT. What remains of Daesh in Iraq
He went even further during a press conference class held that same afternoon. “Whatever the American choices, we will maintain our presence to fight terrorism in Iraq, as long as Iraq asks for it”, said the head of state. “We have the operational capacities to ensure this presence”, he even added, while the French forces are often presented as dependent on American logistics.
“By this second visit in less than a year, Emmanuel Macron sends a strong message of support for the local population, plagued by multifaceted crises: security, economic, political, social, but also now health and climate”, analyzes political scientist Myriam Benraad, associate professor in international relations at Schiller International University and author of the book Terrorism, the pangs of revenge (1).
“A touch of optimism”
But the Iraqi people remain disillusioned by decades of hardship. “His visit will certainly not solve the Iraqis’ problems: it is up to us to manage them ourselves”, sweeps Ahmad, a young journalist from the Shiite suburbs of Baghdad, forced to flee Iraq after being personally threatened by Iranian forces.
Invited on Sunday August 29 in the evening of TF1’s television news from Erbil (Iraqi Kurdistan), Emmanuel Macron will perhaps say more about the modalities of France’s aid in Iraq, as well as his wish to continue the evacuations of Afghans threatened in their country. Discussions have been initiated in this direction with the Taliban, he indicated during his press conference in Baghdad, but also with Qatar which has the possibility of“Arrange airlift operations”.