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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Why holding an Arab League summit in Baghdad is a bad idea

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© Al Habtoor Group

The word “Baghdad” was once a symbol of Arab culture and nationalism. Iraq was the beating heart of our Arab world since the 7th century rule of the Umayyad Caliphate.

The capital Baghdad was built by the Abbasids and its population was acknowledged to be the most learned during Islam’s Golden Age. And say what you will about Saddam Hussein, as brutal as he was, he was a champion of Arab causes until he stupidly sent his army to invade Kuwait – a decision that crippled his country and left it vulnerable to foreign jackals.

Saddam knew that the greatest threat to Arabs was Iran which until today has ambitions to dominate the Gulf. In September, 1980, he went to war against Iran for several reasons that included the liberation of oppressed Arabs in the oil-rich Iranian province of Khuzestan (Arabistan) and the return of islands to the United Arab Emirates that were occupied by the Shah in the early 1970s.

I don’t wish to defend Saddam’s numerous shortcomings and mistakes; he was, indeed, a strong-arm dictator but, with all his faults, his soul was that of a fearlessly proud Arab, supporting the Palestinians and opening-up Iraq to Egyptian workers. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the current rulers of Iraq who appear to have sold theirs to the neighboring Islamic Republic of Iran.

As just about everyone will agree, the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq was a failure on many levels. American combat troops were recently withdrawn leaving sectarian divisions and terrorist attacks in their wake.

Moreover, Iraq’s Sunni population has been politically marginalized by the exiled Shiite dominated government which appears to be more interested in aligning itself with Tehran rather than Arab states.

The Iraqi leadership has been cozying-up to Iran for years to the detriment of its fellow Arabs, which is why I consider the Arab League’s decision to hold a summit in Baghdad next month to be madness – and especially when Iraq’s government is purposefully siding with Tehran against the Arab’s League’s majority will. Firstly, Baghdad is actively supporting Iran’s ally in Syria, the Al-Assad regime that is being loudly condemned by most of the League’s member countries for its bloody crackdown on a helpless freedom-seeking civilian population.

There is no excuse for the Iraqi government’s stance when Iraqis have experienced life under ruthless dictatorship and, therefore, shouldn’t hesitate to defend others who now find themselves in similar circumstances.Baghdad is even prepared to fall out with its main trading partner Turkey whose government has taken an unshakeable position against Al-Assad with whom it formerly enjoyed friendly relations.

Turkey’s leadership has called upon Al-Assad to step aside and is hosting camps for Syrian refugees near its border. I, therefore, suspect Iraq’s Prime Minister of bowing to the wishes of Iran where he spent several years in exile and has since made numerous official and private visits.

Secondly, Iraq’s leadership is thwarting international anti-Iranian sanctions designed to prod Tehran into relinquishing its uranium-enrichment program to avert looming war clouds on the horizon. Baghdad has no intention with complying with US and EU sanctions while in any case its long border with Iran means infringements of sanctions will be almost impossible to police.

Iran is presently Iraq’s second largest trading partner to the tune of US$ 10 billion annually and is currently developing greater industrial and economic cooperation.

For instance, Tehran and Baghdad have signed an agreement for the establishment of jointly-owned transport companies facilitating ease of passenger and goods traffic between the two neighbors.

Personally, I believe the potential for some kind of future Iranian-Iraq political alliance/federation which would pose a direct threat to Gulf States isn’t that far-fetched. Given that Baghdad appears to be more loyal to Tehran than Arab governments and is undergoing a period of instability and insecurity, I’m appalled at the Arab League’s decision to hold a summit there. I’m not the only one.

According to Al-Hayat, the Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby several Arab League member nations may decline to attend the Baghdad meet in protest at Iraq’s position on Syria.

Moreover, Elaraby has confirmed that he has personally passed on those countries’ objections to the Iraqi delegation attending the recent Cairo summit.

Our beloved Iraq is slowly turning into Tehran’s creature which must be devastating for those Iraqis, both Sunni and Shiite, who are proud to call themselves Arabs.

Instead of feuding against each other, they should remember how close they once were and together turn their attention on their quisling leadership. Iraqis, all Iraqis, must decide either to rejoin the Arab world or to cast aside thousands of years of history to permit their homeland to become an Iranian satellite.

I would, therefore, request the rulers of GCC States not to attend or send representatives to the March summit in Baghdad or any future meeting scheduled to be held there until Iraqis decide which side of the fence they want to stand on – and both Sunnis and Kurds are allowed an equal platform with Shiites in decisions of state.

The GCC must do all in its power to keep Iraq from falling into Iranian hands; it must support Iraqis desperate to save their country from a pseudo Iranian occupation via Iraqi puppets in power. I long for the day when “Baghdad” is once again a byword within the Arab world representing the best of our culture and heritage. But as long as Arab governments continue closing their eyes to the ugly truth, sadly, that day will never come.

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