In general, the history of the relations between Mesopotamia and ancient France should be searched in the civilizational connections of the two regions in the previous millennium. However, the roots of diplomatic relations between Iraq and France go back to Christian missionaries in Basra in 1623 AD. As French interest in the region grew, the clergy performed consular duties in Paris between 1674 and 1739. During this period, Iraq’s geopolitical, military-political, and commercial importance increased for the French rulers and their naval forces in the Indian Ocean. In the 20th century, France played a major role in separating Iraq from the Ottoman Empire. Later, with the complete independence of Iraq as the Kingdom of Iraq in 1932, France maintained its relations with the Kingdom of Iraq.
The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries was signed in 1968. Saddam Hussein’s first visit to Paris in 1972 led to the consolidation of oil relations between the two countries. However, with the visit of Jacques Chirac to Iraq in 1974, the start of the cooperation between France and Iraq in the field of nuclear energy, and then the signing of the agreement to supply French military equipment, the construction of the nuclear reactor began. The golden era of Iraq-France relations became more apparent in the second half of the 1970s.
These friendly and “exceptional” relations of the leaders, from the establishment and operation of the nuclear power plant to France’s extensive military support for Iraq in the Iraq-Iran war, continued. Although the hostage-taking of the Iraqi embassy in Paris created some ambiguity, the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 intensified bilateral trade, military, and nuclear technology ties, in addition to Iraq’s debt to France.
In fact, the relationship turned into a true alliance in the mid-eighties. Although France became one of the most important actors in Iraq, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 damaged this relationship; Therefore, relations began to deteriorate. In 1991, France sided with the United States in the international military coalition against Iraq.
Because of French opposition to the intervention in Iraq, Operation Desert Storm, and Baghdad’s efforts to rebuild relations, some relations between Paris and Baghdad were reopened in the mid-1990s. But with various crises in Iraq’s relations with the West, numerous sanctions, and the WMDs case; All ties and forms of cooperation were severed, until 1998.
In the meantime, despite the desire of France to lift the sanctions and the opposition of French President Jacques Chirac to the occupation of Iraq by the United States in 2003, France was placed on the sidelines of Iraqi affairs after a long period of close relations. Therefore, the stagnation of relations continued until the time of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.