Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Dog eats dog in fractured Iraq

By Sami Moubayed
Asia Times
(Sami Moubayed is a Syrian political analyst)

".....This might explain why the Americans have explored, over the past few weeks, several options to stabilize the country. One option is to talk to Iran to control the Shi'ite insurgency. The other is to talk to Syria to control the Sunni insurgency. The third option - too difficult for the Bush administration - is to talk to both.

Talking to Iran, in any way, is too difficult for the Americans, and if they were to acknowledge the need to deal with Tehran, it would have to be through the Syrians. The US approved the sending of a senior British envoy to Damascus last month to meet with President Bashar al-Assad and demand - among other things - Syrian support for the Maliki government.

Syria responded promptly by sending Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualim to Baghdad, which agreed to re-establish diplomatic relations with Syria. This gives great credibility to Maliki's cabinet in the eyes of Iraqi Sunnis. Syria is also preparing to receive a senior Iraqi security delegation, which includes Interior Minister Boulani, to discuss bilateral relations - an act that surely is pleasing to the Americans.

But bringing the Sunnis to order in Iraq will not be easy without the support of Saudi Arabia. And Syria's relations with Riyadh are currently tense because of the situation in Lebanon and Saudi Arabia's support for Syria's opponents in Beirut, including parliamentarian Saad al-Hariri and Prime Minister Fouad al-Siniora.

As long as there is no Syrian-Saudi rapprochement, the Sunni street of Iraq will remain divided, because Saudi Arabia has control over Iraqi Sunnis, and uses it extensively to counterbalance the meddling of Iran in Iraqi affairs. And Iran's influence on the Shi'ite street is paramount. If the US wants to pacify the Shi'ite street, it must talk to Tehran. Unless this happens, the situation will remain as chaotic as it has become since February. "

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