Is Iraq stepping out of area’s dominance?
Last week, Iraqi officials in Presidency and Council of Ministers and Parliament started official visits to Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey aiming to redress the balance and restore the relations with the actors in the area. The important question is: can Iraq really build healthy relations and step out of regional countries’ predominance and influence?
Saudi Arabia is one of the powerful and decisive Arab states in the region, and internationally has its position and status. Iran, on the other hand, implement a policy that counter the interests of the US and Europe, and is an ally to Syria, the Shiia and very close to Russia. Turkey has moved into a new phase in its relations and stances over the events of the area which can be considered crucial, and is under pressure being accused of helping ISIS and trading oil with them. The US is concerned about Turkey’s policy not helping and taking part in the international coalition against ISIS terrorists. These can have direct impact on Iraq’s relations. Turkey has conditions to take part in striking ISIS in Iraq and Syria. It is demanding Bashar Assad’s removal. Meanwhile the coalition’s goal is striking ISIS, although Barack Obama said, assuring Turkey, that Bashar Assad should give up power and striking ISIS should not be taken as an advantage and both are responsible for the dire situation in Syria. This might be a factor to reposition Turkey into the world’s important equations.
Iraq’s security is directly related to the region’s countries. When Nuri Al-Maliki was in power, Iraq’s regional relations were mainly with Iran and Syria the fact which alienated the country in its relations with other powerful actors of the region. Iraq's economy stagnated. The corruption was widespread. Iraq lost its former status internationally due to its tarnished human rights records particu- larly in its treatment of the Sunnis. Consequently, the ISIS gained more public support and military capability.
Al-Sistany’s representative clearly demanded not to sacrifice everything for the sake of the relations with Iran and Syria. Saudi Arabia is opening a consulate in Hawler. Dawud Oghlo, the Turkish Prime Minister, visited Baghdad and Hawler. In the Kurdish capital, the two sides took decisions about important issues. Here, the discussions were frank and open between two true trusted allies. In Baghdad, Oghlo and the Iraqi officials discussed security and intelligence cooperation and how to deal with terrorism. So this does not seem to be crucial concerning Baghdad in the balanced relations in the area, because the influence Iran has militarily and supporting and guiding the Shiia groups is obvious and effective despite the Saudi, Gulf countries, Arab Sunni community and Turkey’s concerns about it.
Baghdad does not seem to be ready politically, psychologically and mentally to play the important regional role the international community is now expecting. Before redressing its relations with the neighbors, Iraq needs to redress the balance among its components and internal parties, and should solve its own problems first. It should have a clear national agenda away from sectarian influence and religious ideology before taking steps, not the opposite when it intends to formulate the national policy to solve the Sunni-Shia crisis through promoting interests of each of Saudi, Turkey and Iran; or attempting to take steps to show goodwill towards Kurdistan. So far, Iraq is seen as a weak and sick character and doesn’t want to be out of its neighbours’ dominance and influence, but rather stay in the shadow and under the impact they exert on Baghdad’s power and national policy.