Dubai: UAE’s warm welcome to the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, brought joy and optimism to both Iraqi expats and Emiratis as both countries strengthen ties.
In recent years the UAE had set its sights on extending its relations with Iraq. During Al Kadhimi’s visit, the UAE announced a $3 billion (Dh11 billion) investments in Iraq to strengthen the economic and investment relations between the two nations. The new investments are aimed to tap new prospects of partnerships between the two countries and accelerating socioeconomic and developmental growth in support of the people of Iraq.
Iraq’s Prime Minister was received in Abu Dhabi by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. Al Kadhimi was accorded a red-carpet welcome where the UAE and Iraqi national anthems were played followed by artillery fired 21 guns in salute to the guest.
Later in the day, the Iraqi officials met His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Ruler of Dubai, at Zabeel Palace. The leaders discussed ways of enhancing fraternal relations between Iraq and the UAE.
The Iraqi premier thanked the UAE for its support for Iraq and its people particularly for the UAE’s medical support to help Iraq and its people face the health crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic.
History of relations between UAE and Iraq
* The history between UAE and Iraq goes back to the Bronze Age around 2,600BC when Umm Al Nar (Mother of Fire) and Hafit civilisations had strong cultural and trade ties with Mesopotamia or the area also known as “Cradle of Civilisation”.
* Iraq was one of the first countries that supported the establish of UAE in 1971 and had strong ties established by the Late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE.
* Many Iraqis live in the UAE and have helped in developing the country in many sectors.
* During the Iraq-Iran war, the UAE supported Iraq economically.
* UAE was the first Arab nation to restore full ties with Iraq in 2008 as UAE send an ambassador to Baghdad after a visit by UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Baghdad in June 2008.
* In 2008, the UAE cancelled almost $7 billion of debt owed by Iraq, becoming the first Gulf Arab country to forgive all of Iraq’s debt.
* On July 31 2007, following Iraq’s victory in the Asian Cup, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid awarded the Iraq National football team for capturing the Asian Cup for the first time in the country’s history.
* Iraq has an embassy in Abu Dhabi and a Consulate General in Dubai while the UAE has an embassy in Baghdad.
The visit included a series of meetings on broadening the prospects of cooperation between the two nations on all fronts for their common interests, with the two sides hailing the depth and strength of their fraternal relations. The two sides agreed to grow economic cooperation and accelerate trade and investment exchanges, urging their businessmen to exchange visits. They also agreed on establishing the Iraqi-UAE Business Council and to streamline all the measures in the service of the two nations and their peoples.
At the end of his visit, the Iraqi Prime Minister thanked the UAE, leadership, government and people, for the warm welcome and hospitality he received during the visit.
What the visit means for Iraqi expats
Iraqi expat Zina Janabi, working as a transformation director in Dubai, told Gulf News that the visit is important step to strengthen the ties between Iraq and the Arab homeland. “Iraq was an essential part of the Arab homeland and will always be. I am touched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed’s comments on the recent Iraqi official’s visit to the UAE. He addressed the Iraqi expat community and acknowledged the role we are playing in the UAE,” Janabi said.
“His Highness Sheikh Mohammed’s recent tweet was also highly received by the Iraqi community as he described Iraq as a country that is not like the rest of the countries and that Iraq is the dawn of human civilisation. What a proud moment. What a huge glimpse of hope for Iraqis.”
She said that Iraqis are eager to rebuild their country with the support of the Arab nations. “Iraq will rise again, despite all the obstacles. Iraq history, Iraqis’ determination and ability to stand tall, will lead to a great future — I have no doubts. Thank you to our brothers and sisters in the UAE for making us always feel welcomed and loved in our second home,” added Janabi.
Ahmad Al Hadithy, a 47-year-old Iraqi resident in Dubai since 1999, told Gulf News that Iraq’s PM visit to UAE will return Iraq to the Arab homeland and especially to the GCC. “We witnessed an Iraqi government wants to return Iraq to the Arab homeland after many years since the 1990s. The visit shows the seriousness of Iraq to strengthen the ties with GCC and the UAE. Iraq will always be part of the Arabic body,” said Al Hadithy head of Operations at Al Ghurair Properties. “The support of the UAE to Iraq is a response to everyone who doubted the Arab’s love for Iraq.”
He said that he never felt like a stranger in the UAE since he moved to Dubai more than two decades ago. “It was a moment of pride when I heard Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed speak about what Iraq represent to the UAE. Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid’s tweet about Iraq’s civilisation and historic role draw a big smile of relief and pride because these comments came from Arab leaders that all the world admire of what they achieved for the UAE. Thanks for the UAE’s leaders and nation for all the love and help to Iraq and Iraqis.”
Dr Ali Al Khayat, a 45-year-old Iraqi family physician based in UAE since 2002 said: “I feel very happy for the visit of PM of Iraq to UAE as this will strengthen relations between the UAE and Iraq even further. Iraq is part of the Arab world. As a nation we have close relation with UAE in culture. UAE is a leading Arab country in all fields. I hope the visit will develop Iraq as we suffered for years from wars and terrorist attacks,” Al Khayat said.
“The visit will start a new era for Iraqis to make all developments and investment in different sectors. I hope the UAE investment will help to build Iraq’s infrastructure. Emiratis will feel more safe to invest in Iraq. I hope this will be new beginning for Iraq.”
Moreover, Lina Al Qaissy, an Iraqi living in Dubai said: “We honestly felt so proud when we saw the incredible speech that Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed gave about Iraq. It was so moving. As for the investment itself, yes we were all glad for different reasons but mainly to see UAE help and support Iraq to become a thriving economy and country once again. To me on a personal level, having lived here all my life, I feel incredibly optimistic that Iraq can use UAE’s guidance and expertise in its development.”
Mayada Al Jouboury, an Iraqi living in Dubai said: “I am really happy and optimistic about the latest announcement. A move like this gives me hope that my home country can one day become like the UAE, a place I love living in so much. I hope it will prosper in many different ways, like the UAE, especially that Iraq has so much potential. It also made me so grateful to hear about the renovations of Al Hadba Minaret and the Al Nuri Mosque.”
Iraqi Engineer Munaf Al Taee, living in Dubai said: “UAE has a special place in my heart as this country welcomed me when I came before more than 13 years escaping from the violence in Iraq. UAE embraced me and I managed to build a family and enjoy the peaceful life in Dubai. Iraq’s Prime Minister visit will enhance the ties between the two nations and countries.
“We have a lot of mutual cultures and traditions with the Emiratis. They understand the Iraqi accent and we understand them too. Hope this visit will bring better future for both countries.”
What the visit means for Iraqi businessmen in UAE
Dhia Al Shakarchi, Chairman of Iraqi Business Council in UAE based in Abu Dhabi, hopes that the UAE investment in Iraq will develop Iraq’s infrastructure. “It was a brilliant gesture by the UAE to invest in Iraq. I hope the investment will be under direct supervision of the UAE to develop Iraq’s infrastructure like bridges, hospitals, schools etc. We are grateful for the UAE’s aid and help to Iraqi people and we are ready to facilitate any logistics or whatsoever. We will never forget the UAE’s kindness to Iraq,” Al Shakarchi told Gulf News.
Maath Al Sadoon, a 45-year-old Iraqi businessman based in UAE, said that the investment is major step to develop the ties between the two countries. “As Iraqis, we are thankful for the gesture by the UAE to invest in Iraq. We hope the Iraqi government take advantage and use the investment to develop the country’s economy and help the Iraqis. Such investments can help to develop Iraq’s infrastructure and build facilities for the Iraqi people,” said Al Sadoon.
“UAE is known of its kind gestures and this is not the first time UAE invest and help Iraq. Strong ties with developed countries like the UAE will give a bright future for the Iraqi people. We must learn from UAE leaders on how to develop our country. UAE has a great, respectful reputation worldwide in building their country. We must learn from the UAE’s model after reached space.”
What the visit means for Emiratis
For Emirati Saood Hadif, the visit means Iraq will stand again despite all obstacles. “Iraq’s Prime Minister visit means a lot for Emiratis. Iraq is the cradle of history and the Arab civilisation. Emiratis always hope that Iraq will return strong. The visit will open the doors and new bridges between the two countries. It will help to enhance the relations between the two counties,” said Hadif. “We have a strong desire to visit Iraq, a country that means a lot to us.”
Heba Abdul Rahman, an Emirati woman, told Gulf News: “I think Iraq is a beautiful country with wonderful people. But Iraq has been unlucky in the past decade due to unstable politics. However, it is apparent that they have a tenacity in them that is striving towards a better future. I am proud that we are able to be a part of that process.”