Saudi gain, Iranian fiasco!


Saudi diplomacy has succeeded in restoring warmth to the Kingdom’s relations with Iraq. It is an accomplishment that should not be underestimated, as it is the epitome of the well-established Saudi political position that Iraq is a sisterly neighboring Arab country. Therefore, it should remain in the Arab fold, and it ought to benefit from Arab potential to overcome the circumstances that have incapacitated it since the severing of relations following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

That year, the Kingdom and other Gulf countries took a historic stance to liberate Kuwait. The Saudi monarch at that time, the late King Fahd Bin Abdulaziz (may Allah have mercy on his soul) said: “Either Kuwait should return, or Saudi Arabia goes with it.”

Saudi diplomacy continued to exert efforts to return to Baghdad and it was not dissuaded by the obstacles in its path. Diplomatic efforts continued relentlessly until they were crowned in February 2017 by the first visit to Baghdad in 25 years by a Saudi Foreign Minister, Adel Al-Jubeir.

In this connection, several major Iraqi political figures, including Al-Sayyid Muqtada Al-Sadr and Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim have visited the Kingdom. Before them, Iraqi President Fuad Masum and then Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi also paid visits to the Kingdom.

Undoubtedly, bringing Iraq back to the Arab fold has been a major concern of Riyadh for many years. One of the biggest mistakes made by the two former US presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama was in withdrawing US forces from Iraq when suicide attacks and terrorist bombings were at their height, allowing Iran to pounce on Iraq and attempt to convert it into an “Iranian protectorate”. The Iranian pretext that the majority of Iraqis were Shiites was a falsehood with which it wanted to destabilize the region and impose its hegemony on Iraq. The Iraqi Shiites are basically Arabs, while the majority of Iranian Shiites are non-Arabs.

With its unwarranted meddling in Iraq, Iran wreaked havoc in the country by carrying out acts of sabotage and countless explosions. Iran strove to change the demographic structure in southern and central Iraq. It also carried out campaigns of killing on the basis of identity cards, targeting the Sunnis of Iraq. All this was carried out under the pretext of fighting terror and liberating Iraq from the clutches of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS).

Iran deployed its notorious militias all over Iraq to terrorize the populace and consolidate its agenda in Iraq. It was impossible to extricate Iraq from this situation unless it was encouraged to return to the Arab ranks and Arabs returned to Baghdad. This does not mean Saudi Arabia alone, but all the Arabs without exception.

As the Iraqi leadership is convinced that Saudi Arabia and Iraq need to resume normal relations, Iraqi President Fuad Masum paid a visit to the Kingdom. He was followed by the head of the government, Haider Al-Abadi, who confirmed that he sought the best interests of his country and that he is not a tool in Iran’s hand.

The opening of border crossings followed. This rapprochement received support from the US, which sent its Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to attend the first meeting of the Saudi-Iraqi Coordination Council, which was held in Riyadh recently, in the presence of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Al-Abadi. The Trump Administration from its first day in power has made it clear that it is determined to oppose Iranian influence in the Arab and Muslim world.

Undoubtedly, Al-Abadi has inherited policies deeply ingrained in sectarianism from his sectarian predecessor Nouri Al-Maliki. There is no doubt that by normalizing diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and the other Arab countries, Al-Abadi can counter Iranian influence in his country. He has also realized that stability in the post-Daesh defeat stage requires greater assimilation of Iraqi Sunnis in the Iraqi political coalition.

The post-Daesh stage will require huge efforts and gigantic financial capabilities to carry out the reconstruction plan for the cities destroyed in the war against terror, especially Mosul.

Definitely, the restoration of warm relations with Iraq will cause worries for the mullahs of Tehran. No doubt, Iran will then look for more ways to carry out acts of sabotage. This necessitates Riyadh, Baghdad and the rest of the Arab capitals to be extremely cautious about “Hezbollah” groups in Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Syria, especially since Iranian ambitions are not restricted to only swallowing Iraq. Today it is in Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar and Syria. Yesterday it was in Sudan, Morocco and Egypt.

This requires a unified and strong Arab front to repulse Iranian influence and an internal cohesion that cannot be breached by satanic Iranian conspiracies and destabilization schemes.

The author is the editor-in-chief of Okaz.