At a time when Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki complains to MPs from the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) about the intervention of neighboring states in Iraq’s affairs, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, speaking at the conference of neighboring states in Kuwait, called upon Arab countries to boost their diplomatic presence in Iraq.
What is striking is that the increase in American talk about the neighboring states’ Arab role is matched with Mr. Maliki’s reiterated complaints about the neighboring states’ interference in Iraq.
The question is: Which neighboring states are Mr. Maliki is referring to? And which neighboring states harbor al Qaeda and facilitate the infiltration of saboteurs into Iraq? And moreover, which neighboring countries are arming and funding the militias and elements operating outside of the law?
If Mr. Maliki defines things for what they are then the situation would have been very different. Then the neighboring states would know the Iraqi government’s real intentions, and the Iraqi and Arab public opinion would become aware of Baghdad’s pursuit to provide a political platform for political reconciliation and the renunciation of violence and sectarianism. However; first and foremost, those manipulating Iraq’s stability must be exposed.
As for the repetition of the phrase ‘neighboring states’ without identifying them; it can only further complicate matters. But because I can speak freely and say what many of Iraq’s neighbors cannot say: Mr. Maliki should know that there are some who consider him to be allied with ‘neighboring states’ – meaning Iran.
Since Mr. Maliki led the battle of Basra himself, and since he deemed the Mehdi army to be worse than Al-Qaeda, then why doesn’t he lead the political battle and call things by their names? Then the neighboring states would be reassured; those that do not want to see an Iranian Iraq, that the Iraqi political leadership is keen to preserve Iraq’s sovereignty and independence.
Only then will it become clear that the battle of Basra is a battle in which the state is pitted against outlawed groups – not a battle between Shia parties competing for power under Iran’s umbrella. Mr. Maliki must become aware that communication with the neighboring states is far better than the American pressure on him.
The first step required for communication is to define things for what they are. The neighboring states share borders with Iraq and what takes place in Baghdad affects its security and stability. Moreover, the neighboring states have a genuine and strategic interest to see a free and independent Iraq – which is why they have supported the Iraqi people throughout the years of the Iran-Iraq war.
Mr. Maliki’s initiative to state things as they are will mean that Baghdad has come a long way – and it is much better than American pressure. Many of the neighboring states resorted to silence and even refused to comment upon the Iraqi situation after confirming that Washington was looking for someone to blame for the obstructed political process in Iraq. Meanwhile; today, we see Washington urging Saudi Arabia and Egypt to play a more effective role in bringing about stability in Iraq and to protect its Arab identity.
So, will Mr. Maliki state things as they are and tell us which neighboring states he is referring to? Or will he leave the matter to the Americans and the Iraqi officials who agree to speak on condition of anonymity?