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  • Karis Clark

A New Regional Power Alliance: Egypt, Jordan, Iraq Form Ties Amidst Regional Upheaval

On August 25th, country leaders from Iraq, Egypt, and Jordan met in Amman, Jordan, to discuss current socio-political upheaval in the Middle East and the potential for a power alliance between the three central Arab nations. This tripartite summit was the third of its kind since March 2019, but it was the first that brought all three nations’ heads of state together.

Jordan’s King Abdullah II, Egypt’s President Fattah al-Sisi, and Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi explored the potential formation of an alliance between the three nations. This burgeoning bloc comes in wake of the economic downfall resulting from COVID-19 and an increase in extremist activity throughout the region. While at the summit, these leaders explored both logistical solutions to economic and infrastructural issues as well as potential ways to mitigate the severity of the ongoing conflict in Palestine.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi (left), Jordanian King Abdullah (middle), and Iraqi PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi (right) in Amman, Jordan prior to the summit. Photo: Yousef Allan

Despite lasting only a day, the Amman summit covered a large array of current issues and solutions, with the primary goal being to form closer economic ties in wake of the pandemic. Regarding the potential establishment of an economic bloc, Iraq’s al-Kadhimi stated, “Geographic and historical bonds between the three countries provide the solid basis for building long-term economic partnerships.”

An economic bloc between the three countries would have a host of potentially positive benefits for involved parties. Expanding economic and trade cooperation would spur development across numerous sectors of the region’s economy. The countries also stand to benefit from their close geographical proximity, which would enable shared infrastructure and encourage the construction of an oil pipeline between Iraq and Jordan.

On a larger scale, a more integrated region could allow the involved nations to have more leverage in both the Arab and international world. Increased power within Egypt, Iraq, and Jordan could play a key role in mitigating the growing political instability in Turkey and Iran. Additionally, this alliance could redirect regional leadership from the Persian Gulf to Mesopotamia and the Eastern Sahara. Currently, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have strong political leverage due to their oil resources and economic power. The members of this power alliance seek to use their combined resources to reignite their influence within the Arab world as well as the international political scene.

Individually, each nation stands to benefit from the development of a symbiotic relationship. Jordan seeks to gain economically from the development of shared power lines and the formation of an oil pipeline. Access to Iraq’s oil exports could boost Jordan’s economic recovery following COVID-19.

For Iraq, the development of an oil-exportation pipeline through Jordan would give Iraq geographic access to the Mediterranean market. Iraq also is currently seeking to broaden their political horizons and alliances to push for political stability. Egypt, currently battling severe economic hardship, looks to a partnership with Jordan and Iraq to receive a share of the post-pandemic reconstruction efforts as well as the political leverage such an alliance would provide. For Jordan and Iraq, Egypt offers its substantial military power and sheer weight in terms of size, population, and infrastructure.

Map of the region, with countries of relevant interest highlighted

Despite their own individual interests at hand, Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt have common goals in the institutionalization of their burgeoning alliance. In addition to the socio-political strength and economic stability they stand to achieve, all three seek to take measures towards resolving the Palestine-Israel conflict. Continued conflict in the Gaza Strip will leave neighboring countries at risk of lost economic output and instability. The Palestine-Israel conflict is the greatest hindrance to Middle Eastern peace, as far as the potential alliance members are concerned.

Jordan’s Abdullah II has repeatedly called for ending the Israeli annexation of portions of the West Bank and creating an independent Palestine state. The developing inter-country alliance stands behind Jordan, as it remains in each of their best interests to lessen tensions and work towards a peaceful solution that aligns with the interests of both Israel and Palestine. This results from their interest in satisfying both their Arab historical motivations with Palestine as well as their American allies that remain on Israel’s side.

Another motivator for remaining in Israel’s favor comes in the form of another newly-developed alliance. The recent solidification of an alliance between the UAE and Israel conflicts with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, wherein each involved nation (including the UAE) agreed to form no alliances with Israel until peace had been reached.

Despite this violation, the heads of state of Jordan, Iraq, and Egypt have remained publicly supportive of the UAE-Israel deal. Their support for the UAE-Israel deal stems from its inclusion of an agreement on Israel’s part to cease further annexation of the West Bank.

Along a similar vein as Palestinian-Israeli conflicts, the leaders at the summit emphasized the need for decreased foreign meddling in Middle Eastern affairs. This comes amidst growing tension between the US and Iran, as well as the Turkish presence in Iraqi Kurdistan, a violation of prearranged Iraq-Turkey agreements.

Despite strong regional and historical ties, the efficacy of the alliance could decrease due to limitations within each involved nation. While each country has individual advantages, their combined economic strength may not be enough to fully accomplish any of their goals. The lack of stability, whether due to conflict on their borders or within their nation, could redirect attention to each nation’s individual issues, rather than their plans for combined growth.

Additionally, the alliance may force nations to choose one regional tie over another. While the alliance officially stands behind Jordan’s stance on the Palestine-Israel conflict, this may not last if Egypt or Iraq feel that their ties to the UAE and United States offer more than their ties to Jordan. This could force Jordan to choose between a strategic economic alliance and their close ties to West Bank Palestinians.

The ongoing conflicts dominating the Arab world may prevent this power alliance from accomplishing anything tangible, especially in wake of the pandemic. Though this alliance may not come into fruition, continued upheavals in the Middle East underscore the importance for greater regional unity.

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