|What are the Saudis really looking for in Baghdad?||
Saudi Arabia’s recent decision to appoint an envoy to Baghdad after nearly 20 years of strained relations is another component in the country’s general policy to counterbalance Iran’s influence in the Middle East.
Riyadh is ostensibly trying to restore its diplomatic relations with Iraq, which were suspended when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990.
The two countries’ ties have been more strained since the 2003 U.S. invasion toppled Saddam’s Sunni-dominated government and Iraq voted in a new Shia-led government, which cultivated a good relationship with Iran and altered the focus of the country’s foreign policy.
Due to the volatile situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the Saudis are extremely concerned about Iran’s increasing spiritual influence in the region, especially the inspiration that the popular uprisings have received from Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979.
And since the beginning of the Syria crisis, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, backed by Western governments, have done their utmost to topple the country’s popular government.
The Saudis’ inclination toward Iraq is just a ploy meant to convince Iraqi officials to take sides with the regional anti-Syria front, which includes most of the Sunni Arab governments and Turkey and is massively backed by the United States and its European allies. If Iraq turned on Syria, it would facilitate the efforts to increase the pressure on Iran, which is one of the main supporters of Syria’s resistance against Israel.
However, the Iraqi people and government feel a deep connection with Iran due to the close cultural and political relations between the two countries. From the very beginning of the war on Iraq in 2003, Iran used every means at its disposal to counter the U.S.-led occupation. Over the past few years, Iran has been very helpful to its western neighbor in its reconstruction process and in its efforts to end the occupation. Thus, the current state of diplomatic relations between the two countries can be described as very friendly.
Many political analysts believe that the main reason for the failure of the anti-Syria campaign is Saudi Arabia’s hypocritical stance toward regional uprisings. In order to survive the political tsunami sweeping across the region and to stifle its own citizens’ complaints about its ironfisted rule, the monarchist system of Saudi Arabia has invested millions of dollars to prevent any real democratic change from occurring in Bahrain and Yemen.
In addition, Riyadh has moved closer to the U.S. and Israel in order to eliminate the resistance front in the region, which has always been regarded as the greatest threat to the Camp David order, which took shape after 1979. This order actually facilitated the continuation of authoritarian rule in a number of Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, over the past few decades.
But on the opposite side, Iran is opposed to all the threats to Syria and the broader resistance front, which it believes will serve as the key to the final collapse of Israel and the liberation of the people of the Muslim world.
Thus, the ruse of Riyadh’s decision to appoint an envoy to Iraq and to propose an exchange of prisoners with the country is bound to fail. Many Iraqi Shias hate the Saudi government due to its military intervention in Bahrain, which is helping Manama in its suppression of the pro-democracy protests.
The question is: What are the Saudis really looking for in Baghdad?
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