Pedro Sánchez visits the Spanish troops deployed in Iraq this Thursday, a contingent of 362 soldiers who participate in two international missions. The President of the Government is also going to meet with the heads of the Iraqi Government and State and with Spanish businessmen.

Is he fourth trip he made to the region of Middle East since the war between Israel and Hamas broke out in the Gaza Strip. His arrival this Wednesday comes just two days after an attack by an Iran-affiliated militia against a US military base in the country; and in full disagreements with Washington on account of the international mission that the United States wants to lead in the Red Sea to defend international maritime routes from the attacks that the Yemeni rebels carry out in solidarity with Gaza.

Sánchez’s agenda in Iraq

Sánchez starts his agenda in Baghdad this Thursday with a meeting at nine in the morning local time (two hours less in Spain) with the prime minister of Iraq, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. Both are scheduled to appear before the media an hour later, after the meeting. Next, Sánchez will be seen with Abdul Latif Rashid, president of Iraq, at the Baghdad Palace, provisional residence of the Head of State. Spain and Iraq will adopt a joint declaration that will be the roadmap for bilateral collaboration. Sánchez will also foreseeably address the impact of the Gaza conflict on the stability of Iraq.

At around noon the visit to the Union III multinational base and a meeting with part of the Spanish troops deployed there. It is common for the Presidents of the Government to visit one of the Spanish military missions abroad during these Christmas periods, in which the soldiers are personally congratulated on the holidays.

At 1:30 p.m. local time, the President of the Government and the Prime Minister of Iraq will meet with Spanish businessmen, before having a lunch at the Prime Minister’s residence in Baghdad that will end the visit. The Government has traveled on the president’s plane a dozen businessmen from leading companies in sectors of special interest to Iraq, such as digitalization technologies, railways, the agricultural sector or public infrastructures, reports EFE.

Mission in the Red Sea

Sánchez began his trip to Baghdad after appearing at the Moncloa Palace to take stock of the year’s political and economic situation. When asked by journalists, the president referred to the disagreements between Spain and the United States over the international naval mission that Washington wants to lead to defend shipping companies in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemeni rebels.

Sánchez has said that it is “pure common sense” that the contribution to that mission is not an expansion of the Atalanta anti-piracy mission, “because the framework of the operation is not the same” and “the risk and nature of the challenge are different,” said Sánchez.

The president has not ruled out or confirmed whether Spain would participate in a new mission, not linked to Atalanta. “Spain does not oppose the creation of any other operation in the Red Sea. “We are willing and open to the operation being considered by the allies, whether from the EU or NATO, but not within the framework of operation Atalanta.”

And he took the opportunity to underline the Spanish commitment to international missions. “Spain is, within the EU, the first country that participates in more peace missions within the framework of NATO. And, within NATO, if we are not the fourth, we are the fifth, with 3,000 soldiers deployed. Spain’s commitment is total”, he concluded.

Two Spanish missions

This will be Sánchez’s fourth trip to the Middle East since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas on October 7. On October 21, he went to Egypt for the international summit organized to address the conflict. On November 23 he began a tour of Israel, Palestine, Jordan and Egypt, in which he met with authorities. On December 1, the Spanish president was in Dubai for the COP28 climate change summit, where the conflict in the Middle East was also discussed.

The arrival of the Spanish president to Iraq occurs in a environment of increasing tensionafter the president of the United States has ordered retaliation operations following a drone attack against the Erbil air base, perpetrated by militias supported by Iran, which has left three American soldiers badly injured, one of them in serious condition.

In Iraq there are two missions with Spanish participation. One is the Inherent Resolvepart of the International Coalition against the Islamic State, to which Spain contributes 179 soldiers.

The other is an international NATO mission of training of the Iraqi forces, which since May has been led by Spanish Lieutenant General José Agüero Martínez, and to which Spain contributes 183 soldiers.