Experts: Saudi Arabia has few pressure levers for next Iraqi Government

Photo: Experts: Saudi Arabia has few pressure levers for next Iraqi Government / Politics

Azerbaijan, Baku, April 16 / Trend U. Sadikhova /

Saudi Arabia is unlikely to play a leading role in forming the future of Iraqi government, despite the expansion of dialogue with different political parties, experts say.

"I don't think that Saudi Arabia has any leverage at all. At the moment the ideas are who ever forms the government in Iraq tries to reassure various neighbors including Saudi Arabic, so they don't make difficulties. But in terms of actually manipulating Iraqi politics the Saudi Arabia is non-starters," - Charles Tripp, Professor of the University of London, specializing in Middle East politics believes.

Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in an interview to Arabic television channel "Al-Arabiya" said that Saudi Arabia doesn't take any steps to intervene in forming the next Iraqi government. Talabani statements were voiced amid Vice President Tariq Al-Hashimi's visit to Riyadh, who is also nominated in the elections held March 7. As a result of voting, the two largest political blocs, headed by former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki got an equal number of seats in parliament. Allawi's Al Iraqiya Coalition won majority of votes. However, due to the fact that the party can not form a government alone, it is supposed that the next Iraqi leadership will be coalition.

The real competition in the held elections was actually between pro-Arab and pro-Iranian political forces, Ghassan Attiyah, the head of the Iraq foundation for development and democracy believes. "All the activities after the elections in Iraq should be considered in the context. The elections didn't determine any winner, so they have to form a coalition," - Attiyah told Trend. Iranians spent millions on these elections while Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries have actively supported Iyad Allawi - a secular Shiite, because the prime-minister should be Shiite.

Allawi, who headed Iraq's transitional Government in 2004, belongs to the secular coalition and criticizes Iran, which tries to exert pressure through the rest of the religious Shiite parties on forming a new Iraqi government.

According to Attiyah, Arab countries made efforts to unite the political forces in the country during the election period, exactly what the Iranians did in 2008. However, the main factor is the real competition between the pro-Arab and pro-Iranian supporters in Iraq, he believes. "In the elections one thing was surprising - how will they be united? Of course all those who will visit Iran or Saudi Arabia will say they are not interfere. But there is a real struggle between the two," Attiyah said.

None of runners in terms of possible prime-minister of government in Iraq, whether it is Nuri al-Maliki or Jafari or Sadr or Allawi want to present themselves as pro-Iranian, but obviously they can't ignore Iran, British analyst on Iraqi policy, Charles Tripp said.

"In many ways it is very important that Iraqi future government not to act like pro-Saudi Arabian or pro-Iranian, otherwise it will mean political suicide. But clearly they are trying to ensure that Iranians don't complicate the things as it was in the former government," the expert said.

Nouri al-Maliki heads Shiite party, Al-Daawa. Despite good relations with Washington, during his premiership he was perceived in the Arab world as a politician sympathizing with Iran's interests. Tensions increased after al-Maliki's accusations of the Syrian leadership of harboring former Baathists - members of Saddam Hussein's party and involvement in the organization of two large explosions in Baghdad which killed more than 100 people.

The diplomatic scandal was resolved after intervention of Turkey and the Arab League. But analysts believed that it undermined the credibility of the Arab world to al-Maliki.
Attiyah distinguishes the situation in Iraq before and after the withdrawal of U.S. troops. During the military campaign, the Bush administration did not want any foreign intervention, but leaving Iraq, Washington needs the assistance of its regional allies and promotes the role of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria, if it disengages from Iran.
"The current situation is similar to that in Lebanon, and at the same time it is different. If the government of Saad al-Hariri in Lebanon was formed after the reconciliation of Syria and Saudi Arabia, In Iraq all depends on the agreement between Iran and the Saudi Kingdom," Attiyah said.

However, the Lebanese example is unlikely to succeed in Iraq, because Iran has serious problems with the U.S. related to its nuclear program and support for Hezbollah. So, it does not worth waiting for a quick and easy resolution of political conflict in Iraq.
The position of Saudi Arabia is also weakened by distrust of the majority of Iraqis to the policy of Riyadh. So, Iran has more "cards" to influence Iraqi politics, Attiyah added speaking about who has more chances to win in this race
"Iran's position is more perspective and stronger than the Saudis, because it is involved in the situation in Iraq since 2003. I see no immediate opportunities for Saudi Arabia, Jordan or Egypt to improve the situation in Iraq, so the fight will take a long time", Attiyah said.

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