Kuwait Security Conference

Saturday, May 3, 2008

From Vague Position of Arabs to Iran-US Diplomatic Tug-of-War

Kuwait security conference on Iraq was held in Kuwait City on April 22 attended by foreign ministers of Iraq neighbors and representatives of Egypt, Bahrain, permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Group 8 (G8), and Organization of the Islamic Conference. The participants aimed at finding solutions to establish peace, security, and stability in Iraq.

Therefore, the following issues regarding behaviors of Iraq’s neighboring countries are noteworthy:

  • Reasons behind resurge in US propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran;
  • Reasons which prompted Kuwait to host the conference.

After rapid occupation of Iraq followed by spate of terror attacks and security problems in that country, the United States had to change some of its approaches to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The United States has asked Iran, as an important regional player, to throw its weight behind Nouri al-Maliki’s government. Of course, the Islamic Republic of Iran has had enough reasons to support Maliki government.

Trilateral negotiations among Iran, the United States, and Iraq led to reestablishment of security in Iraq. However, the United States which had tried to reach an agreement with Maliki’s opposition groups and Iran subsequently changed its tactic and tried through ignoring the positive role of Iran in Iraq, to create a situation in which it could block Iran’s influence in Iraq. This has been a main reason while trilateral negotiations reached an impasse in recent months.

Concurrent with the security conference on Iraq, US President George Bush escalated anti-Iran propaganda by mentioning Iran as the biggest threat to the United States in addition to al Qaeda and emphasizing that Iran and al Qaeda should be defeated in Iraq. He also invited Iran to cooperate with US plan in Iraq or prepare for confrontation. The United States also led the opposition against Iran’s nuclear program during 5+1 summit meeting.

Futile efforts made by the United States to isolate Iran have created many problems for Washington due to Iran’s capabilities and regional influence. On the other hand, al Qaeda has banked on the situation in Iraq and increased its terrorist activities in that country. Therefore, it seems that Bush is trying to use every means before his presidential term is over, to deceive the public opinion in the United States and other countries and to cover up his failure in establishing security in Iraq. The most prominent instance of US policies in this regard is efforts made to set up Iran as the main culprit for insecurity in Iraq.

On the other hand, Arab countries are worried about empowerment of the Iraqi Shiite majority, which is close to Iran, and are unsatisfied with the Maliki government. They also do not have good relations with Iraqi Kurds because they are non-Arab and are old friends of Iran. Therefore, Arab countries have been following the policy of silent isolation of Iraq and have not even reopened their embassies in Baghdad. They do not follow US policies in Iraq and are arming Iraqi Sunni groups to fight Nouri al-Maliki government. They have even been indirectly sending weapons to insurgents fighting against the US army.

Under such circumstances, a major approach taken by the United States to Kuwait Security Conference was to harmonize policies of Arab countries with that of the United States and to send out the message that enhanced diplomatic relations between Baghdad and Arab states will reduce Iran’s influence in that country. They want Arabs to believe that if they are concerned about Iran’s role in Iraq, they should increase their diplomatic as well as economic presence in Iraq.

As for the reasons which prompted Kuwait to host the conference, it is noteworthy that Kuwait is a close regional ally of the United States and has hosted the conference to provide the United States with a good opportunity to encourage other Arab states to promote their diplomatic ties with Iraq, thus changing the power balance in Iraq against Iran.

Given conditions faced by the United States in Iraq, it is unlikely that Arab states will be willing to change their policies toward Baghdad and the Maliki government before the end of presidential elections in the United States. On the other hand, they are sure that the United States is using other means to prevent Iran from developing into a regional power and, therefore, there is no need for their direct involvement in that process.

The Islamic Republic of Iran, on the other side, considers US invasion as the main source of insecurity in Iraq and introduces withdrawal of occupying forces as the best solution to end the chaos in that country. Since the occupation of Iraq, Iran has always supported the interim government of Iraq, the political process which led to compilation of that country’s constitution as well as independence of Iraqi government in running the country’s affairs after withdrawal of foreign forces.

Undoubtedly, Iran is the main beneficiary of security and stability in Iraq.

Two other conferences of Iraqi neighbors have already been held in Sharm el-Sheikh in May 2007 and in Istanbul in November 2007 which focused on fighting terrorism and the need for stability in Persian Gulf. At the end of Sharm el-Sheikh meeting, the US secretary of state took part in a press conference on her country’s military aid to Arab countries and noted that it was in line with regional security requirements.

Last year, Iranian and American officials met on Iraq in three rounds of face-to-face negotiations. However, no time schedule has been given for the fourth round of talks. There was no meeting between Iranian and American diplomats in Kuwait. Therefore, we must wait to see the consequences of Kuwait security conference on Iraq before assessing success of Iran and the United States and the role and share of Arab states in Iraq’s diplomatic tug-of-war.


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