Skip to main content

US lawmakers urge Biden to push back on Iraq's anti-normalisation law

Bipartisan group of lawmakers also call for expanding normalisation between Arab states and Israel during US president's Middle East trip
Joe Biden in Israel
US President Joe Biden delivers a statement upon his arrival at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport in Lod near Tel Aviv, on 13 July, 2022 (AFP)

A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to publicly oppose Iraq's recently expanded law which criminalises the normalisation of relations with Israel.

In a letter sent to the White House on Tuesday, 24 House and Senate lawmakers urged Biden to further promote normalisation between Israel and Arab countries during his visit to the Middle East this week.

Earlier this year, Iraq's parliament passed a law that would make it a crime to normalise ties with Israel, with violations of the law punishable with life in prison or the death penalty. The new legislation provides wider definitions for acts considered a violation compared with the original statute dating back to 1969.

Biden in the Middle East: Following Trump's lead toward regional disaster
Read More »

The legislation makes Iraq an outlier in the Arab world, where a growing number of countries have signed on to a campaign to establish diplomatic relations with Israel.

"Iraq is an important and valued security partner. Nevertheless, this law jeopardizes freedom of expression, promotes an environment of antisemitism, and could deter other states that have yet to normalize relations with Israel," the letter said.

"As you embark on travel to the Middle East later this month, we respectfully encourage you to raise Iraq's anti-normalization law during your visits with foreign leaders and make clear the United States' resolute condemnation."

The letter was spearheaded by Senators Jacky Rosen and Joni Ernst, co-chairs of the Senate Abraham Accords Caucus; and Representatives Bradley Schneider and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, co-chairs of the House Abraham Accords Caucus.

The so-called "Abraham Accords" are the normalisation agreements signed in 2020 between Israel and several Arab countries, including the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan.

The agreements, which were brokered by the administration of former US President Donald Trump, shattered a longstanding Arab consensus that there should be no normalisation with Israel until it reaches a comprehensive peace deal with the Palestinians.

Biden arrives in Israel

Biden arrived in Israel on Wednesday as part of a tour of the region where he is expected to push for increased oil production in an attempt to control spiralling fuel costs and inflation in the US.

The US president will hold talks with Israeli leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid and former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before meeting Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas in the occupied West Bank.

The visit will culminate with a major gathering of regional leaders in the Saudi port city of Jeddah where Biden is expected to engage in some capacity with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On Tuesday, a senior Israeli official briefing reporters ahead of Biden's arrival said the visit could result with some movement on Saudi-Israel ties.

Biden officials have been far more cautious, acknowledging that Israeli-Saudi ties would be a focus of the trip while insisting that normalisation would be a "long process".

Still, US officials have hinted that some Arab countries were looking to make gestures to improve relations with Israel during Biden's visit.

Iraq, along with several other regional countries, has never recognised Israel, Iraqi citizens cannot visit the country and Iraqi companies cannot do business there.

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.