On the afternoon of June 17, 2017, hours before a historic crime, ISIS waged its final battle in the alleys of the city of Mosul, hiding in the middle of its old homes and sheltering inside the walls of the Great Mosque of Nuri.

Here, in the same place three years ago, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi appeared and proclaimed himself Caliph of the Muslims, and his black flag flickered over the humpback lighthouse, whose history goes back more than eight centuries.

It was only after more minutes of raging battles that the time and place had changed.

While the fighting was intense in the vicinity of the mosque, and the Iraqi army was advancing little by little, a loud explosion was heard, which was nothing but the explosion of the mosque, which became a rubble.

The humpback lighthouse, which witnessed the rise of the star of ISIS, also witnessed its thunderous fall.

But the Al-Nuri Mosque remained ashes while various countries competed for the cake for the reconstruction of Iraq.

A competition appears to be on its way to a resolution recently, after an Egyptian company was chosen to implement a project to restore parts of the old city of Mosul, and at the heart of which is the historic mosque, in a sign of the escalation of the Egyptian role in Iraq away from the limelight.

Cairo has been working hard and silent for some time in a country that many have forgotten during the past decade, after it was in the center of the limelight during the American occupation in 2003 and during the 1980s and 1990s due to its long war with Iran and the controversial invasion of Kuwait.

Al-Nuri Mosque damaged in Iraq

Since its invasion by the Americans in 2003 and the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime; Iraq has long lost its regional influence and struck by corruption, instability and civil violence. Although Cairo did not have good relations with Saddam Hussein's regime, it did not view the new and fragile Iraqi regime at the time in a positive light, especially after the Shiite opposition took the lead in the political scene, and what arose in its ranks between the loyalists of the Shiite reference in the city of Najaf, Iraq, and the supporters of the rival reference. In the city of Qom, Iran, which Egypt has been wary of its regional role since its Islamic revolution, and does not establish full diplomatic relations with it to this day. Even when the Islamic State has acquired a third of Syria and 40% of the area of ​​Iraq; Egypt did not move to participate militarily in the international coalition against ISIS, and it refrained from getting involved in the complex scene in Baghdad, preoccupied with internal and regional files more vital to it.However, the limited trade exchange between the two countries began to jump to remarkable levels in 2018, forming a harbinger of a strong and growing relationship that did not receive the necessary attention.

Abstinence was never the title of Egyptian policy towards Iraq until recently, as Cairo participated in the war to liberate Kuwait after Saddam Hussein's invasion in 1991, and while the Iraqi president expected Egyptian neutrality, given that Iraq hosted in that period about five million Egyptian workers, the Egyptian president Former Hosni Mubarak had no choice but to let his old friend down and join the international coalition with about 45,000 fighters. Egypt, by participating, in return, avoided a major financial crisis. As the Egyptian economist Jalal Amin explains in his book "The Story of Egypt's Foreign Debt", after six months of the war, Egypt obtained financial aid pledges of four billion and 726 million pounds from the Gulf countries, as well as an exemption America and Egypt from $ 13.7 billion of its foreign debt. As a result, Egypt's debt decreased from $ 47.6 billion in 1990 to $ 24 billion in 1994.

In the wake of the American invasion, the new rulers who took power in Baghdad refused to pay off their commercial and government debts owed to Cairo, and demanded that 80% of them be dropped, which led the two countries to a muffled diplomatic crisis after Egypt insisted on paying Baghdad the sum of one billion and 72 million dollars demanded by the first Egyptian government. After the January 2011 revolution, the two sides entered into unsuccessful negotiations together, in which all points of disagreement were not resolved. But with the arrival of the current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to power in Egypt in 2014, the ruling regime’s trends changed. The Egyptian president was not satisfied with the Gulf alliance, but rather sought to weave new ties with other countries, starting to knock on the gates of Baghdad and flirt with its leaders, by launching an attack on the referendum. What the Kurds called for to separate from Iraq, after which Egypt began talks to activate political ties with the Iraqi government, with the aim of increasing trade exchange, which doubled in just three years from 800 million dollars in 2015 to one billion and 650 dollars during 2018.

Meanwhile, Sisi's relations with the Gulf allies seemed less aligned than before, as Cairo voted in favor of two Security Council resolutions in 2016; One of them is French to stop the violence in Aleppo, and the other is Russian, which Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states opposed in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the same month, Saudi Aramco informed Egypt verbally that it would stop supplying petroleum products, before deciding to return them six months later. It was time for Cairo's ally, which found an alternative to Saudi oil that was cheaper without exorbitant political consequences. At a time when Egypt was looking for an alternative to supply it with 700 thousand tons of petroleum derivatives a month, Iraq found the opportunity to win an ally, and it announced the supply of 12 million barrels of high-quality Basra light oil to Cairo on easy terms. On the other hand, the Egyptian regime stopped - until the moment - from its financial demands from Iraq in light of its economic crisis, a door apparently closed by Cairo in order for it to open another door:Reconstruction of Iraq.

According to official data issued by the Iraqi Ministry of Planning, Iraq needs about $ 88.2 billion to implement reconstruction projects within the provinces that witnessed great damage during the war. But the country, which faces a continuing deficit in its budget, which amounted to 19.7 billion dollars this year, will not be able to carry out such a huge burden. While the donors ’conference pledged $ 30 billion, the Iraqi government announced that the reconstruction cost of the seven most affected governorates (Anbar, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, Nineveh, Diyala, Babel and Baghdad) is estimated at $ 46 billion.

The reconstruction cake was supposed to go to Iran, which accounted for a large share of weapons and politics in Iraq after the US invasion. The leaked Iranian intelligence documents, which were published by the "New York Times" in 2019, reveal that Tehran asked former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, whom the document describes as "the Iranian government's agent in Iraq", during his tenure, to have the largest share in the reconstruction. , Given its major role in eliminating ISIS. Tehran was not satisfied with that, but sent an implicit warning to Iraq through the words of its Foreign Minister, in which it said: "If a European or American company decides to come to Iraq to carry out reconstruction work, the costs of that company to protect its workers and cadres will be more than it intends to spend for the reconstruction and construction." In a veiled reference to the possibility that it was targeted by the Iraqi militias loyal to Tehran.

Mustafa Al-Kazemi, the current prime minister and former head of the Iraqi intelligence service, sits in the middle of threads woven by Tehran with his predecessors, seeking at the same time to open different doors with the United States and the Arab countries, and trying to curb the Iranian influence that pervades Baghdad's ruling circles, and to show Iraq an independent state. Sovereign and opinion, not affiliated with Iran. From Al-Kazemi’s point of view, Egypt seemed to be a suitable country to achieve some of these goals. After Cairo made an offer that was quickly met with approval, it adopted the policy of "oil for reconstruction." Immediately, Al-Kazemi ignored the agreement signed with China regarding the reconstruction file in 2019, and concluded 15 agreements with Cairo covering the areas of investment, housing, reconstruction, industry, trade and finance.

On the other hand, Egypt benefited from the "oil for reconstruction" deal, as it is currently getting 12 million barrels per year of Basra Light crude at a price three dollars less than the global market average, in addition to exempting Egyptian goods from customs tariffs.

And recently, Cairo prepared more for the deal by establishing a unit within the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce specialized only in following up on Iraq reconstruction projects.

The Egyptian-Iraqi deal quickly paid off, after the two parties reached an agreement under which Egypt would export construction materials to Iraq at about one billion dollars annually.

This means an additional loss for Iran, which has monopolized that market for years.

After that, the seven largest Egyptian companies in the field of contracting have already obtained preliminary approval to work in Iraq, and it is not just the construction sector, as there are 14 Egyptian oil companies that are also scheduled to operate in the country.

In fact, Egypt has many elements that qualify it to provide assistance to Iraq in reconstruction, on top of which is the great experience and surplus energy in the field of construction and building materials.

Take cement, for example, in 2018, the Egyptian army inaugurated the largest cement factory in Egypt (the Beni Suef Factory), to operate alongside the army's factories in Arish and North and Central Sinai, and the mass production of these factories caused a state of stagnation and lower prices. In addition to the collapse of the state-owned National Cement Company, according to the vice president of the Chamber of Building Materials Industries of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, the cement surplus now constitutes 50% of production (42 million tons annually), which is like wasted resources estimated at 120 billion pounds.

The new cement factory in Beni Suef

Although Egypt has embarked on a plan to reduce production from 79 million tons annually in 2017 to 42 million tons now, it now has the ability to pump the surplus capacity into reconstruction projects in Iraq and Libya as well. Likewise, Egypt can benefit from similar surpluses in the electricity sector and in the rebar sector, whose production Egypt maintains a high rate of despite the effects on the Egyptian market. Of course, we do not forget Egypt's basic and inexhaustible stock of labor, as Cairo plans to bring another two million workers to Iraq and a similar number to Libya with the development of reconstruction efforts.

Although it is not clear yet the size of the share that Egypt will get from Iraqi reconstruction projects, it seems that it is sufficient to put relations between the two countries on a new path. According to the statements of the head of the Iraqi Contractors Union, to the "Arabi Post" website, Egypt has reached agreements with the Iraqi side to participate in building whole cities without competition from any other companies in the governorates of Nineveh, Salah al-Din, Anbar and Samarra. As for the threats facing Egypt's actions, in light of the power of the Iranian militias and the coldness of relations between Cairo and Tehran, Al-Kazemi sought to dispel them in a dialogue he had with the Egyptian journalist Amr Adeeb when the latter asked him who would protect the Egyptian companies if they were targeted, affirming that the Iraqi state will take care of the protection of workers and their presence Egyptian.

Last August, King Abdullah II of Jordan received in the Jordanian capital, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi, in a tripartite summit aimed at expanding economic and trade cooperation between the three countries. The summit was viewed at the time in light of the so-called New Levant Project, which aims to link the participating countries through economic and political arrangements, coinciding with the regional transformations taking place in the Arab region. The project aims to extend an oil pipeline from Basra to the port of Aqaba in Jordan, and then to Egypt, and Iraq will participate in the project by pumping its oil potential, and Jordan will present its strategic location between Baghdad and Cairo for the success of the project, while Cairo offers its human capabilities and technical expertise.

The meeting that brought me together today with my brother President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi and my brother Mustafa Al-Kazemi is an important step in our efforts to build economic integration and joint Arab action between our countries, and to establish a model for dealing with crises through positive and participatory thinking in light of the Corona pandemic pic.twitter.com/v3AJgkZOLN

- Abdullah bin Al Hussein (@KingAbdullahII) August 25, 2020

With that project, Al-Kazemi aims to present a different model for Iraq through which it asserts its independence from the axes on which it has been based for two decades since the American invasion, in addition to searching for a new electricity resource that reduces Baghdad's dependence on Iranian energy, and the search for a sea view across Egypt towards the Mediterranean. And Europe. Iraq is the second largest oil producer in the "OPEC" organization after Saudi Arabia, with an average daily rate of 4.6 million barrels, and it aims to raise its production to more than seven million barrels per day by 2025, which is the power card on which the Iraqi government relies to restore stability to Iraq.

Cairo’s gains from that project are not less than what al-Kazemi would gain. The same line will be an extension of several projects that Cairo relies on a lot, including the establishment of a land line to transport Egyptian labor and products to those Arab countries. Under the agreement, Iraq will import electricity from Egypt, thereby reducing its dependence on supplies. Iranian energy. Baghdad currently imports 30-40% of its energy needs from Iran, which represents 80% of Iranian exports in the energy sector, and then Iran will lose a significant share in this field as well, at a time when Cairo aspires to become a regional center for the export of electricity. .

Apart from the economic gains of the project, the United States supports the Iraqi rapprochement with Egypt and the Gulf states in general, with the aim of reducing Iran's economic influence in Baghdad as much as possible, and withdrawing Iraq from the sphere of Iranian economic and political hegemony. Of course, it will not be easy, especially as Tehran holds important political and military strings in Baghdad that will be difficult to overcome overnight. However, the Egyptian record in the Levant in general, which is not directly involved in the ongoing battles since the invasion of Iraq, and the great decline in the popularity of Tehran, Ankara and Riyadh due to their direct involvement in the conflicts, means that Cairo has a good starting point in order to draw a role for it in Baghdad. Gradually bypassing cement plants and power lines. Perhaps the Egyptian team's acquisition of the project to restore the Nuri Mosque is an indication of the capabilities that Cairo possesses to play a greater political and cultural role over time.