Arab Presence in Iraq

  • 23 December 2009

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki sent out an important message to the Arab world, in a statement issued by his office recently, calling for an increased Arab presence in Iraq in all sphere of activities. The region cannot stay away from Iraq because it is a founding member of the Arab League and has a role to play in the future of the region.

Iraq is an important Arab country and its stability is crucial for the entire region. A positive Arab engagement with Iraq can undoubtedly help the country overcome its political, security and economic problems and help it achieve its objectives. Iraq has suffered from complex problems since the war in 2003 especially on the security front which has restricted active Arab role in its affairs. But recent years have brought about many changes, removing many obstacles and prompting calls for a greater Arab role which has been demanded for a long time.

The recent message from Al-Maliki is perhaps the latest step in that direction as it looks at influential political and religious forces to support Iraq and its people. The security situation, which has been at its worst since 2003 and was a deterrent to Arab presence, has witnessed an improvement despite instances of desperate terrorist strikes every now and then. That phase of sectarian clashes seem to be over and this has helped the country build a collective framework which is clear from the way political alliances have emerged and are preparing for upcoming elections. All this opens the door for Arabs to come back to Iraq once again. On the other hand, complete absence or weak Arab presence in Iraq encourage other powers to exert influence thereby consequently widening the gap between Iraqis and other Arabs and dragging Iraqis away from its Arab roots. Iraq is at a crossroads and is preparing for general elections the results of which will determine the nature of the political process in the country and its relations with the outside world in years to come. The country also has to prepare itself for the post US withdrawal period which is likely to begin at the end of 2011. Considering these circumstances, Arab presence in Iraq is the need of the hour.

The UAE has always been aware of the importance of Iraq and the need to engage with it regardless of the difficulties. Foreign Minister His Highness Sheikh Abdulla bin Zayed Al Nahyan was the first such high ranking official from the Gulf to visit Baghdad in June 2008. Then came the important visit of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and President of ECSSR, in October 2008. Even prior to that the UAE waived all Iraqi debts and appointed its ambassador to Baghdad. These positive and courageous moves made by the UAE can be a prelude to other Arab initiatives to engage with Iraq at various levels.