Since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, Iraq has been extremely hostile towards foreign intervention, yet in reality, the state experiences intervention by various foreign entities from all sides, except the south. Everyone has a share in Iraq, from Turkey, Iran and Syria, to the coalition forces of different nationalities. However, the Iraqis have maintained their stance of rejection towards foreign interference throughout these years. Perhaps the only country in the region bordering Iraq that has respected this stance is Saudi Arabia.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has recently given a lifeline to solve the Iraq impasse, at a critical time, by calling for Iraqi factions to meet in Riyadh. Yet this is not an exceptional act on the part of Saudi Arabia, rather this is the normality. We can see previous examples of this, ranging from Taif, the location for Lebanese reconciliation, to Mecca, the site of the Palestinian charter.
In Lebanon, despite all the worries and anxiety that currently prevail, and despite an upsurge in incidents, which smell suspiciously of gunpowder, there are more Lebanese, even the Shiites among them, who sleep soundly every night with a profound sense of relief. They know that Saudi Arabia attaches great importance to the stability of Lebanon, and it is using its political and diplomatic weight, whether directly or indirectly, in order to avoid internal clashes orchestrated by the armed militia Hezbollah, or external aggression from Israel. As with Lebanon, there is a general feeling that Iraq needs an impartial entity, with no tactical or strategic objectives, to bring about security and stability in the country. Saudi Arabia has no desire to intervene, but it has not closed its door in the face of Iraq. Rather, it has left it ajar, for peaceful Iraqi factions with a desire for political participation.
Saudi Arabia serves to benefit two sides in this initiative; the first is Iraq of course. If the Saudi-Syrian equation has been fruitful so far in Lebanon, then it is certain that the Saudi-Iran equation is the correct prescription for Iraq today. Even al-Maliki, the Iranian favorite, will not hesitate to attend the Riyadh conference, because the consensus is that it will provide Arab legitimacy to the next Iraqi Prime Minister, which they will be in dire need of.
As for the other beneficiary of this initiative, it is the Arab League. The Riyadh conference will be conducted under the auspices of the regional organization. In reality, Saudi Arabia’s invitation has granted the Arab League a central and essential role in Iraq, and not vice versa. The current conditions that the League encounters are the most difficult in its history, thus the Riyadh conference will help to solve its problems, and address its inability to galvanize members of different nationalities.
In Taif, the Saudis gave the Lebanese nothing, except an atmosphere of harmony, and a formula for civil peace. Likewise, Saudi Arabia did not provide the Hamas and Fatah factions with anything in Mecca, apart from advice akin to that of an older brother, and a pledge to support them, as long as the two factions remained committed to the Mecca agreement. The Saudis will not give the Iraqis any more than that. Since the fall of the previous regime, the issue of the Prime Minister in Iraq has hindered the country, and not helped to advance inter-Arab relations. This is something that the new Iraq should no longer have to endure. All parties involved in Iraq, whether Arab, Iranian or American, can see that the months of trying to form the government have not given anything to the Iraqis apart from fragmentation.