The Iraqi [political] scene was transferred to Saudi Arabia last week with the arrival of senior members from the Sadrist trend and since that day Saudi Arabia has been receiving political guests from Baghdad with [diplomatic] protocol attempting to ensure that these guests do not bump into one another. The capital Riyadh continues to await visitors after the leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar al Hakim, announced last week that visiting neighbouring countries is part of political activity and that the objective of this is for each political party to explain its policy and reassure everybody that they desire good relations with neighbouring countries. Outgoing Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has also visited Riyadh, and his visit was followed by a visit from the President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani who has a difficult job ahead. Iraqi Vice President Tariq al Hashimi has also requested a visit to Riyadh in order to explain his view, while the winner of the recent Iraqi elections Dr. Iyad Allawi is also expected to visit. I do not know whether outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki will take part in this or not.
Some people will ask; why is it when Iraqi leaders visit Tehran they are subject to suspicion and mistrust, however when they visit Saudi Arabia this is considered something positive?
The reason is that the Marjas in Tehran are accused of military and political expansionism in the region, from the mountains of Yemen, to the plains of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, and via the Quds Force in Iraq, and this is enough to cast suspicion on Tehran’s intentions. In comparison, Riyadh declined to interfere in Iraqi affairs during the past seven years in the hope that the Iraqis would be able to sort out their internal affairs themselves. This policy of avoiding drowning in the Iraqi quicksand has resulted in Saudi Arabia having a clean reputation however it has also caused great anger in many Arab capitals that blame Riyadh for moving away from Baghdad and leaving a vacuum in the Iraqi arena for American mistakes and Iranian interference.
I recall that an Arab politician said, “In Saudi Arabia, do they not realize the size of the mistake they are making by following the policy of severing relations? Do they think Iraqi is a far-away country that does not concern them and does not have any affect on them, like Mauritania? Have they forgotten that Iraq shares a border with them, and that Iraq considers Saudi Arabia the guardian of Arab interests in Iraq and an Arab authority? Saudi Arabia cannot put aside this responsibility regardless of whatever concerns it may have.”
It is a source of satisfaction that all parties are visiting Saudi Arabia and that there is no sectarian or ethnic distinction. All parties [in Iraq] are in need of a gateway other than Iran, and this confirms that Iraq is far too important to be a file in the hands of Iran or anybody else, and that Iraqi interests require balance, independence, and transparency. Iraq has the right to reject interference in its internal affairs, regardless of where this interference may be coming from, and Iraq is too important to be a satellite state. It is also far too difficult for any foreign power – regardless of what that foreign power may believe – to control the fate of the Iraqi people. Iraq will only assume its natural position when this reality becomes clear to the Iraqi politicians and neighbouring countries.