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Iraq’s Choice: An Iranian or Gulf Model - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Hassan al Alawi, the Iraqi writer who led a controversial battle against Saddam Hussein in the 1990s, summarized the crisis in one question: how can citizens of the Gulf States live luxurious lifestyles while the Iraqi citizen lives a wretched lifestyle in a country that is richer in resources and has more potentiality?

The question comes to mind today as the modern Iraqi state begins to form and particularly after the announcement of a major rearmament program worth five billion dollars that will aim to rebuild the Iraqi military force.

Moreover, another important question comes to mind: why is Iraq arming itself today when it still has no power plants, water treatment plants or a sewer and drainage system? What are the Iraqis’ priorities? What does the country intend to do with these weapons? Does Baghdad want to return to the Iraq of Saddam Hussein; a powerful state that is feared from the outside but hollow from within? Or is the Iraqi rearmament program part of constructing a powerful state from within in cooperation with a superpower that is supporting its own gains from its ventures abroad?

Out of principle, nobody can dispute the need of Iraq, or any state in this troubled region, to rebuild a defense force. Iraq could be targeted because of its wealth and position. The question refers to the nature of the present Iraqi state and that of the near future. The Americans might leave in just thirty months time, which would expose the country to foreign threats and this is evident from studying the military and political map. The potential threats come from three directions: Iran, Turkey and Syria based on the consideration that these fronts have been active militarily for the past two decades. As for Jordan, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia, they have always been threatened by Iraqi invasion.

In spite of the apparent harmony between Iraq and Iran, no one can be sure of the future because of the precariousness of politics and the frankness of Iran’s aspirations, which considers Iraq a richer country with a better view to watch over the region. It makes it easier for whoever is in charge in Baghdad to control most of the vital area in the Arab East.

Turkey, however, sees danger in Northern Iraq that must be dealt with every now and then by attacking rebel bases in order to put a stop to Kurdish rebel action on Turkish territories. There is also Turkey’s increasing need for Iraqi oil to consider.

Therefore, the Turkish military solution will continue to be a permanent concern for the Iraqis. As for Syria, it knows that it has opened its borders in order to export coups and suicide bombers for the past 40 years, yet it does not pose a military threat.

Five billion dollars is not a huge amount in terms of armament. This is only the first bill. Other bills and billions will follow on the grounds that Iraq is now beginning to rebuild its forces from scratch after Saddam’s military was completely demolished, the remnants of which would only be good for selling in scrap metal markets.

In the new era, the Iraqis have not been asked what kind of Iraq they want: do they want a military state or a country that will flourish? Do they want an Iranian or Gulf model?

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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