Iraq Set to Join China’s Belt and Road Project amid Violent Anti-Government Unrest

Tobias Hoonhout

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi announced during a state visit to Beijing on Sept. 23 that Iraq will sign on to China’s “Belt and Road” international infrastructure project, according to the Asia Times.

“Iraq has gone through war and civil strife and is grateful to China for its valuable support,” Mahdi said during a visit with Chinese President Xi Jinping. According to Chinese state news agency Xinhua, trade between the two countries recently exceeded $30 billion.

“China would like, from a new starting point together with Iraq, to push forward the China-Iraq strategic partnership,” Xi stated. He said the two countries would collaborate on oil and infrastructure projects. Iraq is China’s second biggest oil supplier, while Beijing has become Baghdad’s biggest trade partner over the last few years.

The news comes in the midst of a turbulent time for Iraq, where violent anti-government protests have resulted in over 40 deaths and internet access being cut throughout much of the country.

The protests organically emerged after thousands, mostly young men, took to the streets to demand jobs, improved utilities such as electricity and water, and an uprooting of corruption in the oil-rich country

In a televised address to the nation Friday, Mahdi urged the nation to “return life to normal” and “respect the law,” and told the people their demands would be recognized.

“We will not make empty promises . . . or promise what we cannot achieve,” Mahdi said.

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