What Iraq Has to Gain, and Lose, by Resurrecting a Border Deal With Iran

Apr 5, 2019 | 18:41 GMT

Iraqi President Barham Salih, right, holds a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani at the presidential palace in Baghdad on March 11, 2019.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, left, took his first-ever official state trip to Iraq in March, meeting with Iraqi President Barham Salih and other Iraqi leaders. Meanwhile, Baghdad faces increased pressure from Washington to limit its ties with Tehran.

(SABAH ARAR/AFP/Getty Images)


  • Iraq's recent agreement to share the Shatt al-Arab waterway with Iran stands as a testament to the new level of political closeness between the historically hostile neighbors. 
  • But in addition to the diplomatic symbolism, Iraq knows it needs Iran's help to develop and clean the river and, in turn, help mitigate the blowback from its water crisis and ongoing unrest in Basra.
  • However, by deepening ties with its controversial neighbor, Baghdad risks further complicating its delicate relations with Iran's regional and Western enemies.

After a history punctuated by periods of hostility and bloody conflict, relations between Iran and Iraq seem to be on the mend -- as evidenced by the countries’ recent decision to reaffirm the historic 1975 Algiers Agreement in March. For Iraq, this means giving up land and maritime waters that it has controlled for decades -- the most important of which being the Shatt al-Arab waterway. But despite Iraqis’ concerns that they got the “short end of the stick,” Baghdad actually stands to benefit more from returning to the agreement than it stands to lose -- though not without the risk of ruffling the feathers of Iran’s enemies....

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