Amman, Cairo, and Baghdad: Towards a pioneering development partnership

The following policy paper reviews the features of the upcoming partnership within the Amman-Cairo-Baghdad axis in light of regional and international developments, and defines the general theoretical framework governing its interactions. It also contains 22 recommendations to policy makers that can contribute to achieving the desired goals and ensure the sustainability of the axis for the coming years, enabling it to attract the support of regional and international powers for implementing development projects away from the widespread political polarization in the Middle East. This paper is to be followed by another paper on the tripartite partnership from a purely economic perspective in accordance with the macroeconomic indicators of each country, showing the most prominent economic elements on which to base the economic vision of the emerging axis.

  • Publisher – STRATEGIECS
  • Release Date – Apr 5, 2021

In light of building a pioneering partnership trend aimed at establishing a new development path in the region, Amman, Cairo, and Baghdad have recently witnessed inter-countries diplomatic moves, both in terms of summits, or the political and technical delegation's meetings to examine the actual implementation of projects that have been officially agreed upon.

Remarkable of these moves is the timing, which comes in the context where the region is being “restructured” after conflicts and tensions reaching their peak, and the exhaustion of major regional states involved in the unrest due to the high costs they are incurring on one hand, and as a result of the three countries desire to direct their capabilities towards containing the Coronavirus pandemic’s economic repercussions, and employment of available resources in the service of common interests, on the other.

The new democratic American administration that believes that the previous Republican administration created "chaos" that must be rearranged, is also pushing towards the region's new structuring, which may mean that out of Biden's Administration desire to achieve external gains that would increase its internal political legitimacy "morally", American efforts will focus on reducing tensions in the next stage.

Perhaps, out of the US administration's appreciation of its role in establishing stability in the region the Jordanian capital will gain more diplomatic momentum. Therefore, the president-elect - at the time - Joe Biden's first phone call to Jordanian King Abdullah II in November 2020, expresses his "personal determination" to strengthen the US-Jordanian strategic partnership; "a partnership that is based - in part - on developing positive relations in the region."

Here, the Jordanian leadership may play an important role in the removal of obstacles that may arise in Washington's relations with Baghdad and in with Cairo in some way, especially since the concern of most members of the American administration that is related to the allegations concerning Egypt's freedoms and human rights file is no secret, and demanding introduction of fundamental reforms in the structure of the current system, which came to power after the protests of June 30, 2013, and analysts expect that it, since the of former President Barack Obama's era, didn't have advanced relations with the Democrats.

Accordingly, changes in the American administration may lead to deepening relations in the "Amman - Cairo - Baghdad" axis; this does not mean that this structure arose only in response to the current changes in the regional and international environment. For several years, official meetings have followed in this tripartite formula, most notably the presidential summits, in which the three countries leaderships participated; the most recent of which was the meeting that took place in Amman in August 2020, and resulted in the creation of an "executive secretariat" that its location will be rotated annually in one of the three countries. This reflects a serious political will to translate strategic relations on the ground through the institutionalization of tripartite coordination mechanisms to initiate discussion of technical details away from governments and political positions shifts.

Each of these countries abounds with huge capabilities that distinguish it from the other two, where a well-planned exchange of capabilities can maximize the potential opportunities and positively reflected on the reality of their citizens.

Egypt represents a massive population assemblage capable of supporting Capital with professional labour, and the Egyptian state was able, despite its engagement in the war on terror, to establish large infrastructure projects, such as expanding the Suez Canal and building a vital road network that increased the ease of movement of people and goods. The growth rate in the Egyptian gross domestic product provides an accurate indicator of the economic development taking place, as the rate of this growth in 2018 and 2019, according to World Bank figures, was 5.3% and 5.6%, respectively.

Whereas Iraq is an oil-producing country capable of providing financial cover for projects that await security and political stability, and Jordan is a country with a geopolitical position linking Egypt and Iraq, and as an Arab moderation country that its foreign policy is based on the principles of non-interference in sovereign affairs and the pursuit of resolving crises with a consensual rational away from exclusion and in a way that achieves a kind of regional balance, its leadership can provide regional and international political support for this tripartite partnership.


This preliminary policy paper reviews the theoretical framework for the tripartite partnership, as well as, providing suggested recommendations to move forward in the practical implementation of what has been agreed upon, and foreseeing the likely course of this partnership that could lead to creating a strategic balance and softening the prevailing state of polarization between the conflicting axes. If Iraq can diversify its options away from Tehran without harming its security stability, then the chronic tension will witness a breakthrough that can be generalized to more than one country and in more than one direction.

Decision-makers can verify the political feasibility of this partnership by reviewing this work, which took time and effort to provide an integrated content of the strengths and challenges of this partnership. The work team will also prepare a set of parts of this paper that discuss the technical,  economic, security, and military aspects of the Baghdad, Amman, and Cairo partnership.

Theoretical outline

Before the last summit between the leaders of the three countries, and during an official visit to the United States; The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, revealed in an interview with the Washington Post that he will present The “New Levant” Project - according to the European pattern - to the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, which will include a free flow of capital and technology among the concerned countries. Although he did not clarify the "European pattern" of the project or its member states, the term "Levant” is historically attributed to a geographic block that Damascus is its centre, just as Egypt is not considered a traditional part of the Levant.

What added to the ambiguity of the "New Levant" is the fact that the joint statement of the tripartite summit did not literally mention the project, and Al-Kadhimi did not mention the term again in his statements in Amman, which made some press reports question the existence of such a project assuming the lack of political support necessary for its success.

Theoretically, the joint discussions taking place in the three capitals are nothing but a discussion of gradual integration as per the European liberal School, in which the states negotiate a common formula of goals and means to achieve them within a framework of mutual economic interests that may amount to the degree of the mutual dependence of the member states on each other. These economic interactions are driven by common risks threatening relative stability, and thus a balance is achieved between two vital interests of the state: security and the economy.

However, the liberal theory of regional integration requires the availability of an institutional building for a clear and organized administrative structure that brings together the member states on the principle of sovereignty's respect. It is still too early to assess the effectiveness of the newly introduced "executive secretariat" and whether it is a solid structure that can manage interrelations between member states or not.


Back to previous official statements about the summit meetings, and the potential projects reported by the media, serious discussions are underway to establish real cooperation in strategic areas and sectors, which can be summarized as "oil for reconstruction"; where a giant oil pipeline from Basra to the port of Aqaba will be constructed to export oil to several destinations, most notably Egypt, according to a pricing equation that has not been fully announced, and provided that Jordan and Egypt pay part of the cost of oil - not in cash, but through implementing projects in sectors such as infrastructure, electricity, health, housing, and agriculture.

Indeed, in December 2020, the Iraqi and Egyptian governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding and a cooperation protocol to enhance the exchange of experiences to implement 15 previous agreements in the form of "oil for reconstruction", which were varied between housing, construction, transportation, water resources, industry, trade, finance and investment, health, environment, and justice sectors.

In a region that is characterized by uncertainty and unexpected events "oil for reconstruction" will increase the three countries' energy security. Where Iraq will build a "contingency" route away from the Arabian Gulf to export its oil, which in the event of a major turmoil in the Strait of Hormuz, may not be possible to export it in a substantial proportion.


As for Jordan and Egypt; both countries suffer from the high cost of energy that consumes part of the citizens' purchasing power and raises the operational costs of factories and institutions. It is worth noting that in January 2017, the Egyptian Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Tariq al-Mulla, signed during his visit to Baghdad an agreement to supply Egypt with one million barrels of oil - initially - from Basra oil with advantageous conditions of payment. This came after Aramco stopped supplying Egypt in pre-agreed quantities.

Naturally, the "oil for reconstruction" will be accompanied by further coordination on common interests and threats, such as food security, which has been a priority of various countries due to the great disruption caused to global supply chains by the Coronavirus pandemic, and water security as Jordan suffers from a water scarcity crisis, the Nile and Tigris flow of water is decreasing due Ethiopia's and Turkey's massive dams.

Common Regional Environment

The meetings of the three leaders were not without political implications, where the centrality of the Palestinian cause is always emphasized, and the need to establish a Palestinian state on the line of June 4, 1967, as the only way to establish peace.

With regard to the Palestinian issue, both Jordan and Egypt, as a result of their overlap in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and influential tools, are considered "key states" that no regional or international equation concerning this file can go beyond, or exclude them.

The Egyptian and Iraqi sides support the role of the Hashemite Custodianship over Islamic and Christian holy sites; an attribution that comes at a time when the "Palestinian cause's” priority has declined on Arab agendas, due to the internal and external challenges those countries are facing and not related, in some cases, to this cause, and the emergence of new regional data.

The Iranian threat is almost one of the important drivers for the growth of Israel's relations with some Arab capitals; a relationship that has caused divergence in reactions, the remarkable among of which was the statement of spokesman for the Iraqi Prime Minister, Ahmed Mulla Talal, in August 2020, which reaffirmed that Iraqi law prohibit establishing relations with Israel, yet he did not address the Arab countries that establish or intend to establish relations with Israel, considering that as "those countries' internal affairs." This position can be considered a turning point in the position of the Iraqi government, which has always rejected Arab countries forging relations with Tel Aviv.

In a related context, in a press statement in August 2020, the spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hassan Kaabia, announced a "Virtual Embassy" in Iraq, expressing his hope that Iraq would join the normalization agreements. Searching for this embassy, it became apparent that it is a social media page that was established in May 2018 and managed by Israeli officials, and is directed to the Israeli public.

This pattern of virtual communication may seem in vain and is not based on an actual network of relations in reality; however, data has shown that such virtual embassies, opened in more than one Arab country, contributed to breaking many psychological barriers of open communication between the Arab and Hebrew public. This "digital diplomacy" coincided with the growing areas of communication and coordination, leading to public meetings or even the establishment of normal relations.

Back to the “New Levant” project, media reported that the name is not new, but was introduced by the World Bank in an extensive 317-page paper in March 2014 titled “Over the Horizon: A New Levant”, which examined the opportunities and possibilities for materializing regional economic integration that includes seven countries: Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and the Palestinian territories. The paper also examined Israel’s potential involvement in some fields and sectors, as shown in the reports its extract on the World Bank website.

However, it is not possible to look at any attempt by Iraq to establish contact with Israel in isolation from its relationship with Iran, which has a strategic alliance with Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi movement in Yemen. There are many indicators that Iran is the country with the most negative impact on the conflict in the Middle East, as it still boasts that it has proxies capable of affecting the security of the countries of the region and the security of Israel. Therefore, Iran may seek to make indirect breakthroughs in the Tehran axis, in order to change the form of mutual animosity between Iran and Israel.

In a later stage of reaching a “new” nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 countries, it is expected that Tehran will change its regional policies in order to limit the “veto” on some foreign policy decisions of its allies, especially those related to Iraq's relations with its Arab Neighbors, as reported by the media and officials. It is unlikely that the Biden administration will repeat the big mistake of the 2015 deal, when the Obama administration lifted many sanctions without securing guarantees that the financial gains achieved by Iran would not be used to serve its regional influence. Instead, they would be directed to the country itself, which is currently suffering from economic congestion due to the collapse of the Iranian currency and the consequences of the Corona crisis.


At a later stage of changing Iran's behavior, if it happens, Arab breakthroughs in Iraq and Syria can limit Iran’s influence in these countries, not through a direct conflict with the means of this influence, but by creating new interests that work to “shift” both countries from the Iranian axis by competing with it with tools of soft power. This would undermines the firmness of the hard power that Tehran has in Arab countries.

All the joint statements that followed the meetings of the three leaders emphasized the necessity of resolving the crises in the Arab countries in a way that saves their independence, preserves Arab national security, and prevents foreign interference in internal Arab affairs outside the state’s sovereign framework.

Objective experts almost unanimously agree that dependence on the policy of the axes deepens the current crises and increases the polarization of positions, which makes reaching a settlement in a crisis, such as the Yemeni crisis, subject to reaching a comprehensive settlement between regional parties that includes a certain issue.

Many Arab countries, especially Iraq, are aware of the high political and security costs of the consequences of internal and regional political polarization. Therefore, there is a need to reset regional balances within a framework that preserves national sovereignty and improves Iraq's relations with the Arab countries. This is a goal that the al-Kadhimi government does not hesitate to express. Al-Kadhimi has repeatedly stressed on it in his speech in the cabinet session that followed the recent tripartite summit, saying that “keeping Iraq away from the politics of axes is the approach that the current government is following.”

Al-Kadhimi’s government still has a lot to do to reset Iraq’s foreign policy and keep Iraq away from the US-Iranian tension that may witness a breakthrough in the coming months. This requires the Iraqi state to assert its sovereignty in enforcing the law and having the only right to use force, which is an exclusive right of the state that should not be contested by any local or foreign party. There is a movement within the Iraqi state that seeks to distance the country from the “proxy war” raging in the region.

However, this movement’s success in forming such a reality depends on the US-Iran interactions, and Iran’s interactions with Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE. At this time, it seems that reaching a grand settlement has become imminent, especially as the regional powers are aware of the extent of the human and economic devastation caused by the current stalemate. This calls for an immediate rational political decision, and seeking looking for alternatives that maximize common denominators and respect ethnic differences, because there are no gains of prolonging regional crises in light of pressing domestic conditions, such as the outbreak of Corona pandemic and the drop of oil prices.

Certainly, any improvement in the overall regional climate will be reflected in the level of coordination between the three countries, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. However, these countries must be free from the “false” regional restrictions that impede the smooth flow of joint action.

This does not mean that there is regional opposition to the anticipated project, because it is unlikely that this step by Iraq will face total rejection from Iran. Likewise, Cairo and Amman take into account the security considerations of their allies. This means that the trilateral coordination does not reflect a political desire to impose partly new regional equations, as it is not a new alliance or opposing axis, but a general framework with an economic developmental nature.

Suggested Steps

It is evident from what has been covered in this report that the trilateral project is rational and gradual, as the full desired expectations can be reached if there was a serious political will to achieve common interests regardless of the dynamics of events in the region.

It seems that the three countries tend to have a broader rapprochement, but within a regional settlement rather than an individual decision. Therefore, opening relations will be gradual in a pace that cannot be expected to disturb the balance of power. The ability of these countries to form a “regional troika for stability” depends on their ability to distance themselves from the regional war of influence, and being free from the limitations imposed by the discordant considerations of the axes. If proved effective, this troika could contribute to creating a major regional settlement between Saudi Arabia and Iran in the medium term.

This troika can take the initiative in resolving regional crises instead of adopting a “wait and see” strategy that keeps solutions subject to the improvement of regional relations and awaits the outcome of the upcoming developments, which, if they happen, may not be in the general interest of the three countries.

On the other hand, this trilateral framework will face technical, economic and political obstacles. However, they can be turned into an opportunity for trilateral solidarity to overcome them. Throughout history, crises have always been followed by turning points, either the outbreak of war or the realizing a common vision to find a solution. In order to overcome these challenges, and to guarantee a practical implementation of what has been officially agreed upon by the three countries, the following recommendations can contribute to achieving the desired goals of the new framework and ensure its sustainability for the coming years:

1. Iran is part of the region and its behavior negatively affects many of its countries. Therefore, neither Jordan nor Egypt can ignore it. Hence, a trilateral framework is important to reset relations with Iran, especially for Jordan. It is important to have a constructive communication with Iran regarding southern Syria and the war against terrorism in Iraq. This communication may take place through a third party, such as Russia. Then there will be an exchange of ambassadors between the two sides and diplomatic relations will gradually return taking into account the security and political requirements of Jordan and its allies and partners in the region.

2. The US-Iran talks on Iran’s nuclear program are a good opportunity for Jordan to have a positive presence in the Iranian political decision. The Foreign Ministry of Jordan and Iraq can play an influential role in the regional talks, which are expected to take place in conjunction with international talks between Tehran and Washington. If the joint Jordanian-Iraqi diplomacy succeeded in gaining a foothold as a mediator in the thorny issues of Iran, then the “veto” that observers see Iran using to prevent establishing strategic relations between Iraq and its Arab surroundings can be broken.

One of the reasons for this veto is Tehran's fear of losing some of its economic gains in Iraqi, as the Iraqi market is a major destination for Iranian goods because and Iraq is almost exempted from the US sanctions on those who do business with Iran. According to Anadolu Agency, Iran signed a contract with the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity in June 2020 to export power and gas to Iraq that suffers constant power outages.

In this regard, it should be noted that the trilateral understandings within the “Amman-Cairo-Baghdad” framework include projects for electrical interconnection and increased trade exchange. These projects would not operate smoothly if they collide with established Iranian interests. Iraq, however, has opportunities and capabilities to accommodate more projects without harming any existing interests of any party.

Tehran may not immediately put obstacles to the development of the tripartite relations, as its influence in Baghdad would enable it to subsequently exert pressure on Amman and Egypt after they get “accustomed” to the new oil arrangement, thus affecting Riyadh's allies. Here, Amman and Cairo should be careful and not rush to execute strategic projects before obtaining guarantees from Iraq that no subsequent political requirements will arise in the trilateral relationship. Such guarantees may have previously been discussed at the security level.

3. Enhancing the infrastructure supporting the proposed projects, especially in the energy sector. According to the US Department of Energy, the Iraqi government signed agreements with US energy companies with a total value of $8 billion During Al-Kadhimi's visit to Washington in August 2020, some of which focus on raising the efficiency of work in the explored fields.

To avoid future technical problems, and as a prerequisite, the Basra-Aqaba pipeline project should implement the latest technologies, as the length of the pipeline and topographical differences of the surface of the earth make its execution complicated. Furthermore, a significant part of the success of this pipeline falls on the governments of Jordan and Egypt, because the coast of Aqaba will be an oil export point, which requires logistical equipment and developing port facilities dedicated to handling oil exports.


4. Coordinating with strategic regional projects (political, developmental and economic) and preventing conflict of “interests” due to the multiplicity of these projects, such as the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline project, and the Abu Dhabi-Ashkelon oil project, which has varied assessments by Egypt of its repercussions on the revenues of the Suez Canal, as it would limit the amount of oil flowing through the canal to Europe. However, the Suez Canal Authority issued a statement that estimates the impact rate at 0.61% of the canal's revenues, dismissing worried Egyptian officials estimates of 16% of the canal's revenues.

It is usually noted in the Middle East that there is no desire to merge various regional projects due to political differences, and the desire of some parties to obtain the maximum gains individually.

5. Seeking endorsement of this trilateral framework by the GCC countries, both politically and financially, as it is the nucleus of development work away from the political tension in the region. If this trilateral partnership succeeds, Damascus could later be brought in by an international formula for a solution in Syria. This will be in the interest of strengthening Arab relations and achieving a regional balance for the GCC countries.

6. Establishing a development investment fund with the participation of the public and private sectors of the three countries, at fair shares consistent with the GDP of each and its share of the joint projects. The fund’s mission shall aim at:

  •  Creating financial link between central banks and the banking, encouraging the investment lending movement, and exchanging experiences and information on mechanisms to control and conduct monetary policies by signing MoUs and cooperation in this field.
  •  Establishing specialized joint-stock companies in various economic fields (manufacturing, agriculture, construction, etc.) listed in the three countries, and continuously marketed by media and even in the context of diplomatic work. The participation of individuals in these companies may also be considered a political card to gain popular confidence, which been declining in most countries since 2011.
  •  Paying attention to statistical work to measure industrial, agricultural and technological capabilities, then inferring the most appropriate investment areas, in addition to the related study of indicators of unemployment, specializations and skills of the workforce to employ human capital in the best possible way possible.


7. Working on an in-depth review of the agricultural sector, which may be the tasks of the Development Fund, as a start to building a comprehensive strategy for joint food security. This includes determining the food needs of each country, its export capabilities, and the best markets for export. In addition to setting a goal to reach a higher form of agricultural capital, which not only produces raw foods, but also uses them in food processing industry to produce various consumer goods.

The agricultural aspect is accompanied by the challenge of scarcity of water resources, what calls for coordination and cooperation in searching for alternatives, such as intensified research and development in wastewater recycling and reclamation, sea water desalination, establishing an advanced technological infrastructure for irrigation networks, and rationalizing water use in the agriculture.

8. Creating joint ventures with high added economic value, such as manufacturing and petrochemical industries.

9. Forming a high-level technical and scientific committee to discuss exchanging technological capabilities, then establishing a technical institute with experts from the three countries.

10. Making use of Egypt’s advantage in tourism to create regional tourism routes. A higher committee could be formed to look into the tourism opportunities that can be seized through cooperation between the three countries. For example, ministries of tourism in Egypt and Jordan may promote tours that include the Pyramids, Sharm el-Sheikh and Petra, which can extend to historical sites in Iraq if the security situation improves.

11. Expanding the preferential privileges given to Iraq at the port of Aqaba and shipping routes across the Jordan.


12. Reaching a consensus on “common dangers” on the security front, as the inter-relations still require deepening trust and increasing certainty regarding intentions, because each of the three countries has peculiar security needs different to the two others.

13.  Forming a tripartite security cell to increase joint coordination against terrorism, accelerating exchange of information whenever required, and having sustainable communication through regular channels. Given the nature of the three countries, which the security has a broad influence, security relations can involve new disagreements. However, it should be emphasized that development projects are mainly run at the relevant technical level.

14. Conducting periodic joint military exercises between the three countries that simulate scenarios of “return of terrorism” to populated areas. Thus, they will be ready to promptly respond and intervene in a logistical and operational manner to ward off the terrorist threat.

15. Considering cooperation in strengthening local military industries and raising their efficiency in line with the emerging challenges. A trilateral technical committee could be formed in Cairo to discuss the capabilities that each country could share with the two others.

16. Establishing a joint research center to develop plans and forward-looking studies on issues of common interest in economic, political and social areas related to development, provided that the center coordinates experiences and competencies in the three countries, and holds an annual forum to discuss geopolitical and global changes.

17. Establishing a joint center for epidemics monitoring and prevention, to be an early warning system for outbreaks that may occur during new health crises. Jordan has recently established the National Center for Epidemics and Communicable Diseases Control, an institution capable of “health networking” with Egypt and Iraq. The benefits will not be limited to the member countries, but its benefits will extend to countries of the region that can join the center after its establishment. The Covis-19 pandemic has proven that an epidemic focus is not only a local concern; it is rather a common challenge for surrounding countries that requires concerted efforts to respond to it.

18. Amending regulations and systems to conform to the specifications and standards of each country, because the differences in standards may prevent the fulfillment of the technical conditions necessary to proceed with projects. Here appears the necessity of standardization. It is noteworthy that the Jordanian Contractors Association had already held technical talks in Baghdad that focused on this aspect.


19. Cooperation in addressing the complications of the local scene in each of the three countries, as reading their situation shows a decline in their ability to help each other in dealing with such complications.
The most significant challenges facing Egypt are: The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, the Libyan crisis, and the terrorist movements in Sinai. However, while Amman and Baghdad do not have the necessary tools to support the Egyptian official position on these issues, Egypt can enhance its position in North Africa and the Horn of Africa by diversifying its options and making new alliances in the Levant. This will contribute to its strategic position that pushes to protecting Egypt’s supreme interests in its surrounding.

Iraq, on the other hand, is an arena for a proxy war between major regional and international power. Moreover, it is witnessing protests on life conditions from time to time. As in the case of Egypt case, Amman and Cairo do not have the necessary tools to support the official Iraqi position on these issues.

Similarly, Cairo and Baghdad cannot assist Jordan, in a decisive matter, in addressing its internal challenges, most significant of which the high public debt-to-GDP ratio, or even the external challenges it is facing related to developments in the Palestinian cause.

Therefore, the three countries should not link progress in the joint framework to an improvement in the local situation. Instead, they should proceed with the technical implementation of the proposed projects and look for any possible opportunity to solve their local crises through the joint framework as it matures and takes its right place in regional politics.

20. Considering opening the door for countries whose economic, political and security situations intersect with the development framework (Baghdad - Amman - Cairo) to join this partnership.

21. Neutralizing “politics” and focusing on the development aspect no matter how difficult it is in a highly politicized region, which means that it is difficult to implement the joint vision according to the “European model” as Al-Kadhimi assumed in his aforementioned interview. According to the liberal school, economic integration requires limiting the political tendencies in foreign relations, and stop giving priority to foreign policy at the expense of other areas.

22. Bridging the sectarian gap with the religious influence of the three countries: The Sunni authority of al-Azhar, the Shiite authority of Najaf, and the Hashemite influence that joins both the Sunnis and Shiites together in terms of jurisprudence and lineage. It is noteworthy that the authority of al-Azhar is semi-independent from its counterpart in Mecca, as well as the authority of Najaf is semi-independent from its counterpart in Qom. At a time when the people of the region are tired of paying the price of sectarian conflicts, the three authorities can launch a serious and practical “dialogue of cultures”, which can be used to achieve an Islamic convergence of values that includes Mecca, Istanbul and, at a later stage, Qom, making use of the rising spirit of tolerance and peace in the region.

A Possible Path

 In light of the internal crises faced by different regional countries, there is a need to pursue the policy of “zero problems” with the neighbors, which gives the countries that successfully implement them a geopolitical flexibility to focus more on the local issues. After the previous approach failed to find solutions to the urgent real challenges, it is necessary to adopt new approaches that create the necessary means and tools to improve the current situation.

If they wanted to implement their vision, the three countries will have to inject positive political momentum into regional policy, and contribute to the forging a comprehensive settlement. This is not only achieved through mailbox diplomacy and delivering messages between the parties of the region, but also through taking initiative to rehabilitate the regional political environment and create a new approach to economic cooperation independent of political tensions.

In doing so, the three countries will be able to establish a framework that can extend to deeper goals and more members. Syria, which is awaiting a huge “workshop” of political, social and economic reconstruction, may, at a later stage, become part of the trilateral framework under regional and international arrangements for a political solution. Currently, it is impossible for anyone to deal with most economic public or private entities in Syria, in order to avoid the American “Caesar Act” sanctions, which restrict economic dealings with the country. However, Caesar Act included provisions relating to the possibility of partially or completely suspending with certain conditions, most notably “stopping the Syrian and Russian air strikes against civilians” and “securing a reconciliation and dialogue process.”

There are double goals that Washington can achieve by supporting the trilateral framework of Jordan-Egypt-Iraq, which are not only to weaken Iran’s influence in the region, but also to strengthen the US geopolitical presence in the face of China which aspires to make use of the position of the Middle East as a link in the Belt and Road initiative. This may prompt Washington to mobilize regional support for the trilateral framework, and push its maritime and land trade projects to succeed.

The most likely scenario for the future of the trilateral framework: A paradigm shift in some areas, such as trade exchange and developing joint industrial areas. Moreover, vital areas, such as electric interconnections, will face opposition that may prevent it from being realized, at least in the short term.




Policy Analysis Team