Gulf needs strong Iraq: PM


In front of hundreds of delegates at a security summit in Bahraini capital, Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem, in response to a question by Iraq’s national security adviser Mowaffaq Al Rubaie on why non-Arab Turkey and Iran were invited to last week’s Doha summit but not Iraq, said Iraq was too fragmented to take part in the summit.

“Iraq, yes it’s a very important country and they should be part of the dialogue that’s happening in the GCC and the region. But there are two problems facing us,” said Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem who was on stage after giving a speech on regional security.

“We need a strong Iraq… to be frank with you the unity in Iraq is still not there,” he said. “Some parties feel that they are not being taken as a full citizen.”

Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem said Turkey and Iran had asked to join the summit, confirming speculation that the Islamic Republic had used the meeting as a platform to showcase its growing influence in a largely Sunni region.

Political tensions have escalated in Iraq, where a split between Sunni and Shi’ite politicians has paralysed parliament. Sunni politicians say they do not have a fair share of influence over decisions and accuse the Shi’ite-led government of corruption and discrimination. Shi’ites deny such accusations.

Meanwhile, Gulf countries, cautious about the nuclear standoff between the United States and Iran, signalled loudly their opposition to any military option against Tehran.

Sheikh Hamed bin Jassem urged Washington to engage Tehran in dialogue to reach a solution. “Direct talks do not mean agreeing (from the start) with the other party,” he told conference delegates, among them US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

“I don’t think we can try to solve our problems through trying to seal Iran (off from) the region. They are a very important player,” he said defending Qatar’s decision to invite Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the summit. He also reiterated that being “pushed into a military confrontation with Iran” would not be in the interest of the GCC countries.

Gates reiterated Washington’s view that Iran’s foreign policy was a threat to the US, the Middle East and all countries within range of missiles which he said Tehran was developing.

Washington, wrong-footed by its own National Intelligence Estimate in its accusations that Iran wanted nuclear weapons, has emphasised that no options have been ruled out in forcing it to end its nuclear enrichment programme. The NIE on Tuesday said that Iran, which insists its current programme is for peaceful power generation, had halted a secret nuclear weapons programme four years ago.

“We want the military factor (of Iran’s nuclear programme) to be eliminated,” GCC Secretary-General Abdulrahman Al Attiyah said. “What we care for in the GCC is finding solutions that enhance security and stability … and believe in dialogue as a way to solve the crisis,” between the West and Iran, he said. “We are not for the military confrontation option,” said the GCC chief.

Toby Dodge, a Middle East consulting senior fellow at the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), said the GCC fears of military escalation in the Gulf were justified. “Iran would retaliate to any (US) military action and the Gulf region would be affected… I assume that their strategy is to support an active US policy to restrain Iran (on the nuclear front), but short of military action,” he said.

GCC countries are worried about “Iran’s dominance in the region,” agreed Mamoun Fandy, who is also an IISS senior fellow for Gulf security. “Iran is winning in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria. Iran is winning the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,” he said.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *