On Wednesday, May 11, the Iraqi parliament held its first reading of a bill seeking to criminalize attempts to normalize relations with Israel. The bill seeks to introduce the death penalty and other punitive measure for all state officials, private entities and groups for having any kind of relations with the “Zionist entity”.
Formally known as Banning Normalization and Establishment of Relations with the Zionist Entity, the bill was introduced by MPs of the Sadrist Parliamentary Block in the parliament after its leader Muqtada al-Sadr asked for it in late April.
The bill is a response to the growing US pressure on Arab countries to end their boycott of Israel and establish diplomatic relations with it under the so-called “Abraham Accords.” Going against the Arab Peace Initiative (API) adopted in the Arab League meeting in 2002, some Arab countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco, have already signed the accords in 2020-21 and normalized their relations with Israel. The API asks Arab countries to not recognize Israel until the resolution of the Palestinian nationhood issue.
Iraq, a signatory of the API, has no trade, political or diplomatic ties with Israel. However, Iraqi Kurdistan has allegedly sold its oil to Israel and maintained a friendly attitude towards it.
In September last year, a conference was held in Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region within Iraq, advocating normalization of relations with Israel. The conference was attended by over 300 delegates. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had called it “illegal.”
Though the Iraqi government later initiated legal proceedings against the organizers, it became a political issue in the country and in neighboring Iran.
Iran has often alleged Israeli presence in the region and its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) has on several occasions carried out “military actions” there. In March this year, IRGC claimed to have fired dozens of missiles in Erbil targeting alleged bases of Israeli secret agency Mossad.
IRGC claimed on Wednesday that it fired several rounds of artillery inside Erbil following the arrest of five men in Iranian Kurdistan a day before. IRGC claimed that the arrested men were allegedly trying to conduct “mischievous activities” on Iranian soil, Iranian Press TV reported.
Though the Iraqi government condemned the attacks in a statement, it also asserted that “Iraqi territory should not be used as an arena to threaten the security of neighboring countries.”
The bill is also supported by the Fateh Alliance, which is otherwise opposed to the Sadrist block. One of its leaders, Mohammad al-Hayani, told The New Arab that such a law is necessary for Iraq “because currently there are political sides that try to normalize relations with Israel.”