France’s Emmanuel Macron visits Iraq for ‘sovereignty initiative’

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived for his first official visit to Iraq on Wednesday, bolstered by a UN-backed effort to shore up the country’s sovereignty.

Macron announced the trip late Tuesday, saying he was headed to Baghdad “to launch an initiative alongside the United Nations to support a process of sovereignty.” He has previously described the “fight for Iraq’s sovereignty” as “essential.”

Iraq has struggled under the weight of sectarianism for the better part of two decades. Since the 2003 US invasion of Iraq ousted Saddam Hussein, Iraq has been a stage for regional contests, most notably that between its closest allies, the US and Iran.

It has also struggled to contain violent extremist groups such as the “Islamic State,” which captured large swathes of the country in 2014, culminating in the sacking and occupation of Mosul.

Macron said last week that Iraq has “suffered so much” and deserved options beyond regional power politics and extremism.

“There are leaders and a people who are aware of this, and who want to take their destiny in hand,” Macron said. “The role of France is to help them do so.

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