Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock is traveling to Iraq today. According to the Iraqi Foreign Ministry, the Green Party politician will meet Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani and her colleague Fuad Hussein in the capital, Baghdad. During the visit, Germany and Iraq wanted to strengthen their bilateral relations and discuss more intensive cooperation in the areas of energy and investment, the Baghdad officials said. The Foreign Office in Berlin initially did not want to comment on this.

After years of war against the Islamic State (IS) terrorist militia, Iraq’s new head of government Al-Sudani is under pressure to lead his country out of a serious political and economic crisis. Around 30 percent of the people in Iraq live in poverty, and there have been repeated mass protests in the country since 2019.

In its latest country report from early March, the CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation gave Al-Sudani a mixed record after 100 days in office. “The skilful and skilful navigation (…) through the shallows of Iraqi politics” stands in the way of few results of his domestic reform course. In terms of foreign policy, Iraq is taking a neutral stance, which includes diversifying its relations and moving closer to European countries, above all Germany and France.

Al-Sudani was with Scholz in January

Prime Minister Al-Sudani made his inaugural visit to Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) in Berlin in January, after he had formed a government in October after months of power struggles. At the time, Scholz was pushing for an energy partnership with Iraq in search of a substitute for Russian gas.

Hardly any other country is as dependent on oil revenues as Iraq. According to the International Energy Agency, the country is the fifth largest oil producer. Iraq also exports gas via an LNG terminal that opened in 2022. At the same time, the country suffers from a notoriously poor power supply with frequent outages. In addition to the poor economic situation and corruption, these are one of the reasons for the mass protests that have shaken Iraq in waves since 2019.

After Iraq abstained from the first resolution condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine in the UN General Assembly in March 2022, Baghdad approved corresponding UN resolutions in October and late February.

Bundeswehr supports Iraq in the fight against terrorist militia IS

A few years ago, the terrorist militia IS controlled large areas in Iraq and Syria. Although the jihadists have now been defeated militarily, IS cells are still active in Iraq and Syria and are carrying out attacks. The Sunni IS regards Shiites as apostates and repeatedly carries out attacks on members of this branch of Islam. German soldiers support Iraq in the fight against IS.

When the IS jihadists overran the region around the Sinjar mountains in northern Iraq in 2014, they killed and abducted thousands of people. Many women were enslaved. The United Nations spoke of genocide against the ethnic-religious minority of Yazidis living there. Kurdish fighters eventually drove IS out of the region. In January, the Bundestag officially recognized the crimes of IS as genocide.

Turkish attacks on PKK in northern Iraq

The region in northern Iraq is still considered unstable because neighboring Turkey regularly takes action there against offshoots of the Kurdish Workers’ Party PKK, which is banned in Turkey. The PKK, for its part, carries out attacks there. It is also considered a terrorist organization in the US and Europe. The headquarters of the PKK is in the inaccessible Kandil Mountains in northern Iraq. According to Kurdish sources, three people were killed in a Turkish drone attack in northern Iraq at the end of February.