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March 12, 2012

Iraq appeases Saudi Arabia to secure Baghdad's Arab Summit success

March 12, 2012

March 12, 2012

By Zayd Alisa, for the Arab Digest

It has become increasingly apparent that holding the Arab summit in Baghdad is the overriding priority, if not, the incontestable obsession of the Iraqi government that supersedes, even the most pressing priorities, including the security and stability of the newly fledgling democracy. The Iraqi government has been, since last year, working tirelessly and relentlessly to overcome or, at least, placate the intense resistance, spearheaded by the Saudi regime, to holding the summit in Baghdad.

Although, the Arab league’s justification for not holding the summit last year in Baghdad, was mainly due to the popular uprisings that swept through the region, it was, however, the Saudi regime that played a major, if not, the decisive role in severely undermining and ultimately thwarting the Iraqi attempts. It was hardly a surprise, that the Saudi regime utilised its immense political and financial clout to tear apart Iraq’s futile strategy of striving to win over the backing of the vast majority of the Arab countries, in order to isolate the Saudi regime, and therefore force its hand into attending the summit.

The long list of ostensible reasons that were explicitly underlined by the Saudi regime to justify its steadfast determination not attend the summit, ranged from Iraq was still under U.S. occupation, to Iraq has offered its wholehearted support to the popular uprising in Bahrain, to that Nouri Al Maliki's government has marginalised the Sunni minority, giving Iran a freehand to dramatically intensify its influence, and finally, to the traditional excuse that Iraq is insecure and unstable.

But among the real underlying reasons, that are becoming increasingly evident, despite the Saudi regime’s categorical denials, was and still is its deeply entrenched fear that the success of the democratic process in Iraq is an immensely harmful precedent, which would undoubtedly inspire its own population. Thus, in Saudi Arabia’s eyes, even sending a low level delegation to Iraq is a huge monumental mistake, since it might be perceived by its own population as a ringing endorsement of the new system there, which would, almost certainly, critically undermine the credibility of its relentless campaign to convince its population that democracy leads to instability, insecurity and ultimately to civil war. The other reason that the Saudi regime has striven to sweep under the carpet is its deeply rooted hatred towards the Shia, which explains its fierce refusal to come to terms with, not only the irrevocable nature of the change that has taken place in Iraq, but also the inescapable reality that the Shia form the indisputable majority. 

Iraq’s new strategy hinges on making major Geo-political concessions principally designed to appease the Saudi regime to entice it to attend the Arab summit due to be held at the end of this month in Baghdad. This strategy is, however, highly perilous, even for a stable and secure country, let alone, a country like Iraq. Among these pivotal geo-political concessions are the following: Firstly: Iraq initially refused to endorse the Arab league decision to impose sanctions on Syria, and it also fiercely opposed all attempts, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, to treat the Syrian crisis as an international rather than an Arab issue. But, out of the blue, Iraq had a major change of heart. It gave its ringing endorsement to the latest Arab league resolutions, which are beyond a shadow of doubt nothing but a complete reflection of the Saudi regime’s overarching foreign policy objective of regime change in Syria. These resolutions have explicitly demanded, not only that the Syrian president, Bashar Al Assad, steps down, but also that the Security Council intervenes in the Syrian crisis. Iraq has already bowed to intense Saudi pressure to exclude Syria from the Arab summit. Secondly: Iraq initially gave its unequivocal backing to the Bahraini popular uprising. Iraq was also scathing in its criticism of the Saudi invasion and the ensuing ferocious crackdown unleashed by the occupying forces against the peaceful protesters. Although, the Iraqi government did not formally comment, nonetheless, the support for the Bahraini cause came from highly influential figures in the Iraqi Parliament. But, at the moment, there is very little doubt that Iraq has made a major U-turn in its position towards Bahrain. In stark contrast, there is now a deafening silence, despite the deteriorating human rights situation. Thirdly: Iraq has confirmed that a high level security delegation led by the national security adviser has managed to strike a deal regarding the highly contentious issue of prisoners exchange. While Iraqi officials have tried their utmost to stress that the deal does not include Saudis convicted with terrorism, this, nevertheless, sharply contradicts repeated official statements that the vast majority of those prisoners were charged with terrorist crimes. What is really menacing about the security deal is its emphasis on close co-operation, which would almost certainly make it far easier to infiltrate the already struggling Iraqi side, under the legitimate pretext of coordination. Fourthly: Ayad Allawy, head of the Iraqi list, which is heavily dominated by Sunnis and which enjoys the full blown support from the Saudi regime, has swiftly jumped on the band wagon. In a thinly veiled threat, he asserted that, unless the Iraqi government puts its money where its mouth is by holding the much-trumpeted national conference, to address the stark divisions between the main political blocks, then the Iraqi list would ask the Arab league to tackle head on the internal situation in Iraq. Fifthly: With the Iraqi government’s Pandora’s Box of concessions widely opened, Tariq Al-Hashimi, the Iraqi vice president, who is facing an arrest warrant for terrorism allegations, sought to highlight his case, by insisting that these allegations are politically motivated and that it is the religious duty of all Iraqis to stand by him.

In the wake of all these unimaginable Iraqi concessions, the Saudi regime’s decision to appoint its ambassador in Jordan as a non-resident ambassador to Iraq sought to exacerbate the internal feuding by setting the cat among the pigeons. Although some of Al Maliki’s inexperienced advisers hailed the Saudi dangling of a little carrot, as a major breakthrough, it was abundantly clear to the more experienced eye, that the Saudi regime is not only reiterating the same old message that Iraq is far too insecure and unstable, but also reinforcing this very message by a tangible step on the ground to underscore its unyielding stance.

On the, 23 of Feb, Al-Qaeda launched a series of up to 30 deadly attacks right across Iraq. These attacks came just a few days after the Saudi regime’s decision not to send its ambassador to Baghdad. Beyond doubt, however, is the reality that Al-Qaeda’s attacks have dramatically bolstered the Saudi regime’s position by demonstrating that there is a real and credible threat. It has also given more weight to the Saudi regime’s argument that Iraq remains under the mercy of Al-Qaeda’s strikes, which essentially provides the Saudi regime with a credible excuse, if and when, it decides to pull the plug on the summit. While, it is undeniable that these attacks have exposed the indefensible vulnerability of the Iraqi security situation, it nevertheless underlines that Iraq’s strenuous attempts to hold the Arab summit in Baghdad is playing into the hands of the Saudi regime. Yet alarmingly, the Iraqi government rather than focusing its efforts on protecting its own people, it tried desperately to play down the significance of these attacks and press ahead with its concerted effort to hold the summit come what may. These attacks have, nonetheless, deepened the widespread suspicion of the immensely pivotal role that Al-Qaeda undertakes, whether directly or indirectly, as an indispensable and highly potent instrument in fulfilling the Saudi regime’s foreign policy objectives

On the balance, the supposed benefits of holding the summit are heavily outweighed by the costs, which include: Firstly, an intensification of terrorist attacks with the accompanying loss of lives, infrastructure, jobs and homes. Secondly, wasting desperately needed resources to rebuild infrastructure and to provide decent services. Thirdly, enabling tyrannical regimes to meddle in Iraqi internal affairs. Fourthly, allowing easier infiltration of the Iraqi security services. The benefits, however, are merely restricted to inflating even further the already hugely inflated egos of high-ranking government officials.


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