FOREIGN POLICY: US efforts to bring Iraq closer to Saudi Arabia
Translation / Hamid Ahmed
The event, which was held under the banner of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordinating Council, marked a clear beginning for the development of relations between the two countries, which were characterized by coolness. Although the tangible results were few, including some smiles and a series of promises and agreements announced by the Iraqi government to deepen economic ties, the symbolism of an Iraqi prime minister's visit to Saudi Arabia is in itself important.
Riyadh broke off diplomatic ties with Baghdad after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990. After the war, Saudi policy focused on containing Iraq's ambitions. Relations remained tense even after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, and as of this year no Saudi foreign minister has visited Iraq since 1990.
Now, the smile has turned my face to King Salman and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi because of a combination of sudden factors, including the departure of Barack Obama to power, which endangered Saudi Arabia by extending the olive branch to Iran, and the change in the Saudi leadership with the approach of renewed foreign policy in Riyadh .
The meeting focused on two important points. The first is that Saudi Arabia is seeking to lead a strong group of Arab countries to counter what Iran sees as harmful influence in the region and to close the gap with Baghdad is a way to create a larger bloc. As for the second point, Iraq, affected by three consecutive years of low oil prices and waged a war against a supporter at home.
"For Saudi Arabia, this mini-summit represents a shift in policy to create a broader bloc of countries with common thinking," said analyst Maria Fantaby, an Iraq expert at the International Crisis Group.
"By Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, there is a shift towards the use of the principle of Arab identity instead of the Sunni identity in order to gain regional power against the Iranians. This provides the Saudis with a way to embrace Iraq and play the Arab identity card at the same time," she said. "The Saudis can enter Iraq in a way that not only strengthens the sectarian side but also strengthens the Arab and national side as well."
"For many years, the United States has urged and encouraged the parties to improve and restore their relations," said a member of the Foreign Relations Committee of Congress, who is familiar with the negotiations. "Both former US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Stuart Jones and the Special Envoy of the US Administration, Promising results in this regard. "
The meeting was preceded last week, the reopening of the strategic border crossing between the two countries after 27 years of closure and the resumption of direct flights between Baghdad and Riyadh.
Kenneth Pollack, a fellow at the US Enterprise Institute and a former Iraqi intelligence official, said: "This is one of the things people say is that Secretary of State Tillerson is superior to him ... He worked hard with the Saudis to convince them that their intransigent foreign policy stance toward Iraq was wrong" .
"This is something we've been working on for a long time, and Secretary of State Tillerson has helped bring this effort forward with a strong momentum," a State Department official said in an interview with Loren Poulsey. "Bringing Saudis into the square to help Iraq's economic reconstruction Vital. "
"Now the Saudis have more confidence in managing Trump to do what it wants toward Iran," he said,
The rapprochement between the two countries is more for reconstruction efforts in Iraq than for building alliances. Iraq has been fighting for years, and it needs more help to rebuild the electricity grid, rebuild destroyed neighborhoods and improve the infrastructure of the oil sector.
"The kind of rapprochement that the Iraqi government is trying to achieve is an investment-commercial rapprochement, not just a convergence of political meetings," an Iraqi official said.
About: Forn Polsey
[You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]