Australia and Iraq enjoy a friendly and diverse relationship, with regular engagement on diplomatic, political, security, economic and humanitarian 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 and 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 Coalition Provisional Authority to the Iraqi Interim Government.
People to people links
There is a sizeable Iraqi community in Australia. According to the ABS Migration Australia data, at 23 October 2017, 67,355 people born in Iraq were living in Australia. The resettlement of Iraqis who have fled their home country remains a priority within Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Programme. Between 2007–08 and 2016–17, around 31,480 Iraqis who had 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 four humanitarian entrants resettled in Australia coming from Iraq.
In 2016-17, Australia granted a total of 7,478 visas to Iraqis fleeing violence under the Offshore Humanitarian Programme. Priority for these places was for those with close family links to Australia and women, children and persecuted minorities with least prospect of return to their home countries. This included visas granted as part of the additional 12,000 places made available by the Australian Government in September 2015 for Syrians and Iraqis displaced by conflict in their home countries.
Australia is making a significant contribution as part of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL. Around 300 Australian military personnel are working alongside New Zealand colleagues in the ‘Building Partner Capacity’ training mission in Iraq, building the capacity of Iraqi Army and law enforcement personnel to ensure Iraq’s security. Since 2015, the joint training mission has trained over 35,000 Iraqi personnel. This builds on Australia’s support to Coalition air operations against ISIL, as well as a contribution of around 80 Australian Special Forces personnel, who are advising and assisting the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Service. Australia has also committed personnel to the NATO Training Mission headquarters in Iraq.
Australia has provided and committed $180 million in humanitarian assistance to Iraq since June 2014, including the $100 million three-year Iraq Humanitarian and Stabilisation Package (2017/18 – 2019/20). Australian funding helps provide food, medical services and protection to people in need, as well as stabilisation support to areas liberated from ISIL control. See Iraq humanitarian response for more details on Australia’s current humanitarian package.
Between 2003 and 2014, Australia provided $382 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 was 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 the management of water, agriculture research, rural development, public sector governance, education, landmine clearance and basic services delivery.
The improved security environment following the Iraqi Government’s success against ISIL and a gradual increase in investment for reconstruction are positives for Iraq’s short-term economic outlook.
Bouncing back from last year’s 11 per cent contraction in GDP, Iraq’s economy is expected to grow by 2.5 per cent. But the country continues to be beset by post-conflict challenges (including high unemployment among displaced persons and immense reconstruction needs), as well as longstanding political and sectarian divisions. Sustainable economic progress in Iraq will depend on whether the Iraqi Government can improve internal security, rein in corruption and advance economic reform.
Oil remains critical to the Iraqi economy. Iraq has OPEC’s fourth largest crude oil reserves and is the world’s third largest oil exporter. Oil accounts for over 90 per cent of government revenue and over 99 per cent of export revenue. Oil production is expected to grow by 2.2 per cent in 2018 but oil production is expected to increase only marginally from 2020 as the Iraqi Government cannot afford to significantly increase investments in the oil sector.
Trade and Investment
Total two-way trade AUD 302million in 2019. Historically, Australia's primary commercial interest in Iraq has been wheat, which it has exported to Iraq for over 50 years. The Australian and Iraqi Governments remain committed to broadening 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.
Recent High Level Visits
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accompanied by the Chief of Defence Force General Angus Campbell, visited Iraq in December 2018 to meet with Prime Minister of Iraq Adil Abd Al-Mahdi and meet with Australia Defence Force personnel. Minister for Veterans Affairs and Defence Personnel Darren Chester visited Iraq in August 2018 to meet with Australian Defence Force and civilian personnel. Minister for Defence Marise Payne, accompanied by the Chief of Defence Force Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin, travelled to Iraq in February 2018 to meet with Australian Defence Force and civilian personnel. Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove also visited Baghdad in February 2018 to meet with President Massoum and speak to Australian Defence Force personnel. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull visited Iraq in April 2017, where he met with Prime Minister al-Abadi and visited Australian troops in Taji. Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop met with government and civil society leaders, including the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, during her October 2014 visit. Iraqi Foreign Minister al-Ja’afari visited Australia in February 2015.