Australia and Iraq enjoy a friendly and increasingly diverse relationship, with regular engagement on diplomatic, political and economic issues. Australia and Iraq are represented bilaterally through Embassies in Baghdad and Canberra respectively. Iraq has a Consulate-General in Sydney and the Kurdish Regional Government retains a representative office, also in Sydney.
Australia has had diplomatic relations with Iraq in various forms since 1935. Australia opened an Embassy in Baghdad in 1976; Iraq established an Embassy in Canberra in 1995.
After the closure of the Australian Embassy in Baghdad in 1991, and the closure of the Iraqi Embassy in Canberra in 2003, full diplomatic relations resumed when both Embassies reopened in 2004, following the transfer of authority from the CPA to the Iraqi Interim Government.
Australian forces joined coalition action against the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and retained a contribution for the next eight years. The withdrawal in August 2011 of the small number of remaining Australian military personnel, providing security to the Australian Embassy in Baghdad, ended Australia's military deployment in Iraq.
People to people links
There is a sizeable Iraqi community in Australia. According to census data, at 30 June 2011, 50,450 people born in Iraq were living in Australia. Numbers of Australian residents and/or dual citizens registered to vote in the Iraqi elections suggest the Iraqi community may now total over 60,000. In addition, there are currently around 160 Iraqi students in Australia, sponsored by the Iraqi Government.
The resettlement of Iraqis who have fled their home country remains a priority within Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Programme. In the last 10 years, around 22,000 Iraqis who have fled violence and unrest in Iraq have found a new life in Australia. Iraqis were the single largest nationality granted visas under the offshore Humanitarian Programme over this period, with around one in every five refugees resettled in Australia coming from Iraq. Many of the Iraqis resettled in Australia under the Humanitarian Programme have come from minority Christian communities, including many Assyrians.
Australia has provided $17 million since June 2014 for life-saving assistance to people in Iraq affected by the ongoing violence perpetrated by terrorists. Australian funding will provide shelter, food and medical assistance. In Iraq, Australia has provided funding to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, World Food Programme and Plan International Australia. This funding will include support for women and for the protection of children targeted by terrorist organisations. This builds on Australia’s support for women and girls in Iraq through the United Nations Population Fund.
Since 2003, Australia has provided $335 million in development and humanitarian assistance to Iraq to re-establish services to over 1.3 million people, including over half a million refugees and internally displaced people. This is in addition to $987 million in debt relief to support Iraq’s transition to a stable and democratic nation after decades of war and dictatorship. Australia has worked in partnership with the Government of Iraq to improve agriculture research and rural development, public sector governance, education, landmine clearance and basic services delivery. Given Iraq’s ability to fund its own development, bilateral aid from Australia was phased down and ended in 2013-14.
Trade and Investment
Historically, Australia's primary commercial interest in Iraq has been wheat, which it has exported to Iraq for over 50 years. Australia’s wheat exports to Iraq in 2013 were valued at $581 million. A further $6.7 million in dairy products was exported to Iraq in 2013.
The Australian and Iraqi Governments continue to work to broaden bilateral trade relations. In 2007, Iraq announced the opening of an Iraq Trade Liaison Office in Canberra and the appointment of a senior trade official to Australia. At the same time, The Australian Embassy in Baghdad and Austrade continue to facilitate commercial links between Australia and Iraq.
Australia actively supported Iraq's successful bid for observer status in the World Trade Organisation and will continue to assist Iraq to engage with the global economy.
High Level Visits
Then Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki visited Australia as a Guest of Government in March 2009. As the first visit by an Iraqi Prime Minister to Australia, Prime Minister Al-Maliki's visit signaled a new phase in the bilateral relationship. During the visit, Prime Minister Al-Maliki and then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd signed a declaration on increased cooperation in six key areas and to enhance trade and investment ties. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) were developed on Agriculture; Resources and Energy; Trade Cooperation; Education, Training and Research; Public Health; and Security and Border Control.
In June 2009, then Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Julia Gillard signed the six MOUs in Baghdad with relevant Iraqi Ministers, in the presence of Prime Minister Al-Maliki. Implementation progress under these MoUs is reviewed at annual Senior Officials Talks, held annually. At the most recent round of talks, held in Baghdad in November 2013, agreement was reached to further develop these MoU arrangements.
In May 2013, Dr Sargon Slewa, then Iraqi Minister for Agriculture, visited Australia together with a number of senior Iraqi officials. His delegation visited South Australia and Victoria to discuss irrigation management, dryland farming and Australia’s grain and dairy capabilities. Further reflecting the bilateral interest in food security, Victorian Minister for Agriculture, Peter Walsh, visited Iraq in January 2014, together with industry representatives. This trip focused on Iraq’s interest in Australian rice, dairy and salinity management.
Visits by Australia’s Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues, Craig Chittick, in July and November 2013, focused on facilitating bilateral collaboration and exchange on illegal migration and border control issues.
In October 2013, the Hon Julie Bishop MP visited Iraq to demonstrate Australia’s strong support for the Iraqi people in combating ISIL, which is a major threat to the security of Iraq, the Middle East region and the international community. In her meetings with Prime Minister Al-Abadi, Foreign Minister Al-Ja’afari, President Masoum, and Council of Representatives Speaker Al-Jabouri, Ms Bishop reiterated Australia’s commitment to provide military assistance to the Iraqi Government. She also finalised legal arrangements for the deployment of Australian Special Forces to advise and assist the Iraqi Security Forces. Ms Bishop received briefings from Iraqi leaders and international coalition partners on the campaign against ISIL and the current political situation. She emphasised the importance of the Iraqi Government’s efforts to deliver policies that share power and resources amongst Iraq’s various communities. She also met groups of minority leaders to hear their concerns and to underline Australia’s close interest in the protection of minorities in Iraq.
More information about Iraq is available at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade website