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Arab Nations Gave The US Carte Blanche In Iraq

File image of a soldier at work in Iraq.
by Marianna Belenkaya
RIA Novosti political commentator
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Jan 18, 2007
While the American elite is discussing in Washington whether to support or not President Bush's strategy in Iraq, the Arab leaders have already accepted it. Attending a foreign minister conference of the Gulf nations, Jordan and Egypt on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard voices of approval. The Saudi representatives expressed a common position - the U.S. president's new strategy deserves support if it guarantees Iraq's unity and equality of all sections of society.

The leaders of the eight Arab countries are by no means naive. They understand that the situation in Iraq is very complicated and that it will remain a scene of violence for a long time to come. But they also realize that the new U.S. strategy is the best offer for the moment. At any rate in includes many measures which they have insisted on for years.

It is enough to mention the proposals to change the constitution to expand participation of all ethnic and religious groups in the Iraqi political process, or a course towards broader powers of the Iraqis and non-interference in their domestic policy, or acknowledgement of the country's unity.

Importantly, in order to restore security, the new strategy stipulates efforts against all sources of violence regardless of their ethnic or religious origins. This is an obvious hint at Shiites and Iran. Up to now, the Iraqi and American security forces mostly fought the Sunni armed formations, shutting their eyes to the operations of Shiite groups, which are also responsible for the chaos in the country. Given their attitude to Iran, the Arab leaders were glad to learn that Washington had decided not to involve Iran in the drive for stability in Iraq, although this was not on the record at the conference in Kuwait.

The Arab nations approved the U.S. strategy for one more reason - its endorsement does not commit them to anything. Before the foreign minister conference, Rice went to Riyadh to discuss how the Saudis could support Iraq's stabilization and unification. The response of the Saudi authorities was not made public, although they had declared more than once before that the Iraqis themselves are primarily responsible for their destiny.

Saudi Prince Sultan Ben Abdel Aziz said in an interview with Ash Sharq al-Awsat several days before President Bush announced his new strategy that his Kingdom was concerned about foreign interference in Iraq's affairs, that the Saudi leaders considered it impermissible to intervene in Iraq and reserved for the Iraqis the right to find a way out of the crisis themselves. He observed that his country played host to meetings between different Iraqi political groups so that they could find a compromise. The Saudis also held talks with Iraqi politicians in order to encourage dialogue.

The gist of these statements is that the Saudi leaders and their counterparts from the other seven countries which took part in the conference with Rice, are ready to give political support to the Iraqis and act as go-betweens for different Iraqi groups, if they are asked to do so. However, for the time being they are not going to help Iraq either financially or militarily and are not prepared to assume responsibility for what is happening there. They emphasized that this was the problem of the Iraqis. It was implied that this is also Washington's headache. They will be glad if the Americans and Iraqis find a way out of the crisis, but will do nothing if they fail.

However, even such support means much for the U.S. It is also important that eight Arab countries abstain, at least verbally, from intervening in Iraq and from openly siding with one of the local political groups. In fact, they talk about the need for consolidation in Iraq, and this is significant.

But the U.S. should not delude itself. It has received carte blanche from eight Arab countries to its new strategy in Iraq but on condition that it will not aggravate the situation in the region. Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Sabah said recently, "We are American allies, not servants." Kuwaiti Parliament Speaker Jassem Al-Kharafi repeated the same idea when asked what Kuwait would do if the U.S. insisted on attacking Iran.

These words should not be limited to the possibility of Washington's military action against Tehran. They can apply to any U.S. political initiative affecting the Greater Middle East. The eight Arab nations will support Washington as long as this meets their interests, but this support is not boundless.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

Source: RIA Novosti

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Looking Ahead In Iraq
Washington (UPI) Jan 17, 2007
Getting the political situation right in Iraq can only work if security improves. While this may seem like a Sisyphean task with the full support of the international community, particularly America's NATO allies, the United States might be able to stabilize the situation. Turning Iraq into a NATO operation would not be easy nor would it be a panacea, but it could provide enough breathing room to get things back on track.

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