An important statement both in timing and in content was issued by Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Prince Naif Bin Abdulaziz, at the close of the meeting of the interior ministers of Iraq’s neighboring countries that was held in Bahrain.
In this statement, Prince Naif said “thank God, the security climate between Saudi Arabia and Iraq is improving…and it is necessary for Iraq to complete its security capabilities so that cooperation reaches a level desired by everybody.” Prince Naif went on to say – and this is the crux of the matter – that despite the situation in Iraq, which make Baghdad unable to cooperate fully on security, Saudi Arabia “is completely prepared to unreservedly cooperate with Iraq on security.”
Prince Naif’s statement is important as this was issued at a time that Iraq is witnessing challenges that are no less dangerous than those it faced during the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime. Following the withdrawal of US forces, and the almost 8-month delay with regards to the formation of the Iraqi government; this has resulted in an increase in the speculative efforts made by some – with good or bad intentions –to interfere [in Iraqi affairs] with regards the formation of the next Iraqi government, which is something that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zabari described as media operations.
We also read how Moqtada al-Sadr considered leaving the country to live in Lebanon – rather than Iran – should he be pressured by Tehran, and we also saw the complaints made by those close to Iran in Iraqi politics against Iran vetoing this Iraqi political figure or that [for the position of prime minister]. However we now see the Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister stating that he hopes that the Iraqi people form a government that represents them, their hopes, and more than this, saying that his country is ready to cooperate with Baghdad without reservation.
Prince Naif’s statement confirms that Riyadh is aware that Iraq’s security and stability is a vital issue with regards to Saudi Arabia’s security, especially as the two countries share a long border, which brings with it the threat of smuggling, whether this is weapons or drugs, or terrorists illegally crossing the border. This is an issue that is as much a threat to the people of Saudi Arabia as it is to the Iraqis, and there is ample evidence for this; therefore Iraq and Saudi Arabia have no choice but to cooperate on security.
We must also recall that at the same time that Prince Naif announced that Saudi Arabia “is ready to unreservedly cooperate with Iraq on security” the Shiite militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq [League of the Righteous] – which is funded by Iran – claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist attacks in central and southern Iraq, as part of a series of revenge operations. This is something that reveals the danger of foreign interference in Iraqi affairs, and the danger of the current security situation in Iraq.
The statements made the Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister clearly show the difference between those that are extending a hand of goodwill to Iraq, and those that are extending a hand in order to damage and destabilize the country. There is a great difference between these two groups, and this can be summed up in the words of a man like Prince Naif, who stated that Iraq “has a capable people…and people capable of shouldering responsibility.” Therefore the content and timing of Prince Naif’s statement was important, as this is something that is in the interests of both Saudi Arabia and Iraq, which unfortunately is something that some people are against!