Iranian Foreign Minister in Baghdad on the eve of Al-Kazemi’s visit to Saudi Arabia
Sunday – 28 Dhu al-Qi’dah 1441 AH – 19 July 2020 AD No. number [
An Iraqi tries to start a generator in Najaf amid a power outage crisis (Reuters)
Baghdad: Fadel Al-Nashmi
It is expected that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi will meet today (Sunday) in Baghdad, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, a day before an important and scheduled visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by Al-Kazemi as part of a regional and international tour that includes Washington and Tehran.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Al-Sahaf, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Zarif’s visit comes in the context of enhancing efforts between the two countries, awareness of common challenges and the possibility of building on possible opportunities, which will reflect on common interests.” He stated that “the Iranian minister will meet the three presidencies and the Iraqi foreign minister.”
Apart from the official statements related to the Iranian minister’s visit, local observers believe that the timing of the visit that precedes Al-Kazemi’s visit to Riyadh may be “intentional” by the besieged Tehran, which is severely suffering from the pressure of the American economic sanctions against it, and there are those who talk about “soft diplomacy” that may seek Tehran to pass it through Iraq to Riyadh and Washington.
Al-Kazemi’s regional and international tour, the first gate of which will be the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, attracts remarkable official and popular Iraqi attention, in terms of what it may result in achieving Iraq’s interests at the political, security and economic levels. Observers believe that the visit to Riyadh will be a continuation of previous efforts made by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Abdul Amir Allawi, during his visit to Riyadh, on the authority of the Prime Minister on May 23 (last).
Allawi had revealed, after his visit to the Kingdom, a “three-pronged approach” to develop relations with Saudi Arabia, related to “immediate cash support to the budget, and the second to motivate private Saudi companies and institutions, especially in the fields of energy and agriculture, and to urge them to enter Iraqi markets through investments, either.” The third axis is the activation of the commercial side.
The discussion sessions that were held Thursday, between representatives of the governments of Iraq and the United States and the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf to discuss the topic of the electrical link project between Iraq and the Arab Gulf states, to give a double impetus to the exceptional importance of Al-Kazimi’s visit to Riyadh.
And local experts in the economic side look at the networking project between Iraq and the Gulf states as an entry gate to solve Iraq’s energy dilemma, as well as its contribution to reducing the country’s spending in this area given the high price of energy units that Iraq buys from Iran.
In this context, Abdul-Rahman Al-Mashhadani, a professor of economics at the Iraqi University, says: “The project will provide a large part of Iraq’s energy needs.” Al-Mashhadani said in statements to local media: “Iraq can import electricity from the Gulf countries at cheap prices, and the Saudi offer is still valid, as it is scheduled to supply the electrical unit with 2 cents, while Iraq imports the unit from Iran with approximately 9 cents, so the interconnection project The Gulf is positive, which is to provide for the entire southern region, with Iraq providing two-thirds of the sums paid to Iran.
He continued, “The import of gas will stop from Iran, because it operates the stations in the southern regions, and after networking with the Gulf cooperation, there will be no need for electricity from Iran.”
In turn, the economist Salam Semsem believes that “making room for competition between different sides to provide Iraq with electrical energy is a vital issue.” She tells «Middle East»: «Iraq is currently wasting approximately 2.5 billion dollars of natural gas annually as a result of burning it, or the equivalent of 1.55 billion cubic feet per day, or ten times the amount imported from Iran. This scenario makes it imperative and necessary for the Iraqi life in all its details to depend entirely on Iranian gas, since most of the power stations in Iraq are stations, in addition to importing between 500 megawatts of electricity from Iran in the winter and 1,200 megawatts in the summer at a cost of approximately $ 1.2 billion in the year”.
“Saudi Arabia announced in July (2018), its willingness to cooperate in a plan to supply Iraq with electricity at a price of $ 21 per megawatt hour, or a quarter of the cost of Iranian imports,” Smeisme added.