Baghdad asserts regional role in hosting Arab League Summit

The Takeaway

Nine years after a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein, Iraq is taking a big step back into the world of diplomatic relations.

This week’s Arab League summit is being held in Baghdad, the first time it’s been in Iraq since 1990, before the first Gulf War.

BBC reporter Rami Ruhayem said security has been ramped up around the city as Arab leaders pour in. That’s meant slow business for some shopkeepers who don’t have the crowds they’ve come to expect, with locals scared away by the police and military show of force.

A local poet, though, was out walking the streets. He wrote a poem about the summit that says, in short, that the summit is a shock to Iraq’s enemies and a blessing to Iraq’s friends, marking the beginning of the Arab consensus.

“Consensus or not, the Arabs will get a bright reception here in Baghdad,” Ruhayem said.

Government employees, like Malik, have been applying fresh coats of paint to walls and roads around town, so Iraq can put its best foot forward. Malik’s very proud the Arabs are coming, though he thinks it’s a bit ironic that the Iraqi government cleans up for out-of-towners, and not for its own people.

“Still, they are visitors and they deserve it,” he said.

Not everyone in Baghdad is excited for the Arab visit. In Sadr City, residents say the government is holed up in its Green Zone, leaving other parts of Baghdad to fend for themselves.

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