Saudi Arabia and Iraq, the spheres of Arabism

Turki Aldakhil

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In the western side of Mosul where battles have intensified and war raged, Kurdish journalist Shifa Gardi and her colleague Younes Mustafa, a photographer, travelled to cover the news. She went to western Mosul, her face expressing grief and her passion prompting to be in the field.

Gardi responded to the call of duty. During the process of observing the battlefiel and documenting information and significant developments, she stepped on a landmine, which ISIS had planted. She lost her life and her spirit ascended into heaven. The scene makes it easier to comprehend the international desire to uproot terrorism. Saudi Arabia could not leave Iraq go through this unrest.

On the day Gardi was killed – Saturday – Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made a surprise visit to Baghdad. This was the first visit of its kind since 1990. The goal is clear and direct. There is a desire to bring Iraq to the Arab fold and to discuss coordination with the country to curb terrorism, especially considering the fact that the menace is expanding over vast areas of Iraq and Syria.

Policies devoid of wisdom

Iraq has suffered as a result of policies that lack wisdom. In September 1980, the then-President Saddam Hussein frankly told King Fahad that he intends to launch a war against Iran. When the king asked why launch the war and start it, Saddam said Iranian provocations were increasing. The king thus advised him not to start the war without a real justification.

“I will invade Iran, drag Khomeini from his beard and get him out of Iran,” Saddam thus responded. The king then told Saddam: “You should not drag him from his beard and he should drag you from your tie! Act upon reason and logic.” Saddam did not listen to the king’s advice and launched a war that exhausted Iraq and other Gulf countries.

The major challenge is Shiite radicalism, which is adopted in some policies and decision-making processes, particularly by those affiliated to the Ad-Dawa Party and those who genuinely support Iran and open their doors and borders for it

Turki Aldakhil

In 2003, there was Sheikh Zayed’s initiative, which Saddam refused. America beat the drums of war against Iraq. Saudi Arabia was one of the countries opposing the war the most because the latter meant handing Iraq completely to Iran. Iraq went through what Iraqi journalist and politician Hassan al-Alawi called Iraq’s three phases: the Baathist, the American and the Iranian era, which it is currently living through. This is why Jubeir’s visit is significant as it draws a map that makes it possible for Iraq to return to its Arab axis. This is of course not easy.

The major challenge is in Shiite radicalism, which is adopted in some policies and decision-making processes, particularly by those affiliated to the Ad-Dawa Party and those who genuinely support Iran and open their doors and borders for it.

Iran’s influence in Iraq

It is no secret that Nouri al-Maliki represents the pillar of Iran’s presence in Iraq, and he does not hide that. He once said that “the weapons which the Iraqis are fighting with are Iranian,” and he criticized America’s lack of support to him.

This reminds us of an important criticism made by “Nouri al-Maliki’s maker”, veteran journalist and politician Fouad Ajami who expressed his regret for recommending Maliki and believed he was a soldier of fortune who is destroying Iraq’s unity and committing pure sectarian acts without taking Iraq’s historic religious, ethnic and racial diversity into consideration.

Saudi Arabia congratulated Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi for the success of security forces in their confrontation against armed groups. It decided to name a Saudi ambassador in Baghdad and it wants to employ its military and security wherewithal to serve Iraq’s stability and unity.

Then there’s the important confirmation that Saudi Arabia stands at an equal distance from everyone. This is not fiction. If Saudi Arabia only wanted to support the Sunnis, it would have done so since 2003 when the arena was empty and before Iran and its wings infiltrated the scene.

However, Saudi Arabia has since day one decided to support Iraqi unity and powers of political moderation and carry out humanitarian work such as Saudi King Salman’s sponsorship of 1,000 Iraqi children who were displaced by the terrorist ISIS.
Iraq will remain Arab and one day it will return to its natural space, the reservoir of Arab and Islamic civilization.

The article was first published in Al Sharq al-Awsat on February 28, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.

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