The first winner and loser from the anticipated sanctions on Iran will be Iraq. It will win by seizing the chance to break free from the indirect occupation and it will lose if Iran turns it into the major arena for vendetta.
Iran is considered as Iraq’s sectarian depth with the Shiites and an ethnic extension with the Kurds. Saudi Arabia is Iraq’s gate to the Arab world if it’s braver and if it balances between its Arab and Iranian relations.
Unlike Iran, Saudi Arabia does not want a weak Iraq but it wants it strong because its weakness poses a threat to the kingdom as they share an 800 kilometer border from Turaif to Hafar Al-Batin. Iraq’s strength protects Saudi Arabia’s borders from threats of smuggling drugs and weapons and suspects.
Iraq’s strength allows for economic passages that benefit the two countries and the region. Iraq’s weakness over the course of 15 years pushed Saudi Arabia to build a security barrier. This border fence which is equipped with hundreds of thermal cameras was a decisive factor in preventing plenty of threats. Saudi Arabia is the first country that was subjected to ISIS’ terror outside the borders of the group’s activity in Iraq and Syria when suicide bombers attacked a post in Arar on January 5, 2015, and afterwards ISIS expanded outside the two countries.
Iraq has lived tough experiences for 15 years. When it got rid of Saddam Hussein, it fell in the trap of Nuri al-Maliki, and when the Americans left, the Iranians devoured the country. When the resistance slept, ISIS woke up and when terrorism was deterred, the country realized that it has economically bled due to corruption that’s unparalleled in the Arab world. This is in addition to being subject to water wars from its neighbors Iran and Turkey.
A new page
All these years, Saudi Arabia chose to retire from Iraq and its affairs, and it was an inappropriate choice. That phase has ended and a new page has been turned. The door is wide open for broader cooperation that begins from politics and does not end at sports. The results of one year that has passed promise of plenty of good things for both countries.
Saudi Arabia has presented itself as a partner. Saudi Arabia has sent its minister Khalid al-Falih and Iran provided Qassem Soleimani with permanent residence in Iraq. This is where the difference lies. This is Saudi Arabia’s message and this is Iran’s message. The Iraqis know the difference between Falih’s and Soleimani’s portfolios.Fares bin Hezam
The Iraqis have seen Saudi Arabia’s effort in restoring sports activities to their playgrounds and how it dispatched businessmen to discuss their ideas and products. Their politicians have heard what they do not hear from their neighbor Iran. Saudi Arabia has presented itself as a partner. Saudi Arabia has sent its minister Khalid al-Falih and Iran provided Qassem Soleimani with permanent residence in Iraq. This is where the difference lies. This is Saudi Arabia’s message and this is Iran’s message. The Iraqis know the difference between Falih’s and Soleimani’s portfolios.
Iraq today is before a difficult challenge to balance between its Arab and Iranian relations. All additional openness to the Arabs will be at the expense of Iran’s share, politically and economically. The most recent example is what happened regarding electricity in the south. Iran cut off power and when Iraq decided to dispatch the electricity minister to Saudi Arabia, Iran went mad so Iraq decided to lower the delegations’ representation to heads of departments. Upcoming work is very hard and requires bravery that’s currently available in Saudi Arabia to contain Iraq.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fares bin Hezam is Editor-in-Chief at Al Arabiya Channel.