Monday, December 06, 2010
Iraq's neighbors suck
'Iraq's relations with its neighbors represent a critical element in its efforts to maintain security and stability and normalize its position in the Gulf and the broader region. While Iraq made substantial progress in 2008-09 on these fronts, there remained unfinished business, especially in terms of relations with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Syria. The August 19 bombings -- targeting the MFA, and by extension Iraq's improving relations with its neighbors -- represent a serious setback to that progress and have alarmed senior Iraqi officials that Iraqi Sunni Arab neighbors in particular now view those earlier gains as "reversible." Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging, given Riyadh's money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes, and suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence. Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to vary degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government. Coincidentally, Iranian efforts are driven by a clear determination to see a sectarian, Shia-dominated government that is weak, disenfranchised from its Arab neighbors, detached from the U.S. security apparatus and strategically dependent on Iran. Neither of these objectives is in the U.S. interest. In the longer term, we will need to flesh out ideas for a post-GCC security architecture that includes Iraq more fully, develops ways to contain Iranian regional influence, and shapes the special position Iraq will likely occupy in the Gulf in ways that further our interests and those of our Gulf partners.'