A Good Opportunity for an Arab Role in Iraq

  • 5 August 2008

The Arab role in Iraq has faced some difficulties and problems since 2003 which have limited its presence and influence in the country. Even the first Arab League ambassador to Baghdad after the collapse of the Saddam Hussein regime was not appointed until April of 2006, and he resigned the following January. The League's project for national reconciliation also faced many difficulties that weakened it in the overall political atmosphere. But lately, important developments may qualitatively help the Arab role, especially with the announcement of a new such ambassador in Baghdad. There also is a general Arab desire after a long period of caution and hesitation for an opening toward Iraq exemplified by announcements by many Arab countries, and foremost by the United Arab Emirates, about naming ambassadors to Iraq. The UAE's forgiveness of Iraq's debts, which has won it international acclaim, comes also as an example of this opening.

The Arab opening to Iraq has sent an important message to Iraqis that Arabs support them in tackling their economic, security, and political problems. In return, there is an Iraqi openness evident in the latest visits by Iraqi officials to Arab capitals and in their positive pronouncements. This Iraqi openness is important because it affirms Iraq's strategic Arab depth in the face of the many attempts by domestic and external parties to separate it from its environment.

The improved security situation is also one of the important factors that help to make the Arab role in Iraq effective in the future. The breakdown in security which led to the death of the Egyptian envoy to Baghdad was a main obstacle to the return of the Arab diplomatic presence to the country. The Arab League's ambassador's latest plans indicate a clear desire to play an effective role in Iraq, especially his announcement about ideas and projects that would serve national reconciliation.

It is obvious that in light of the setbacks in reconciliation efforts between the different Iraqi factions, and especially after the rising tensions related to Kirkuk with its dangerous racial and regional implications, Iraq urgently needs an Arab role that could bridge the differences and calm and control tensions. And for the Arab League to play its expected role, it is necessary to convince Iraqis that it stands at equal distances from all factions and trends, but also that they should keep an open mind about its role as one in the service of Iraq, the state and the people, and not in favor of this or that party.