Last weekend’s visit by Mohammad Javad Zarif, who chose Baghdad for his first trip outside Iran as foreign minister, sends a clear signal to the United States: Iraq is in the Iranian camp.
This is the message that Iraq is sending at a time when the United States is seeking support for military action in Syria.
It is up to the Iraqis — Arabs and Kurds – to prove that this is not so, if they want to have a weightier role in the region.
When it is becoming clearer that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons in the conflict, the Iraqi government should not oppose an attack. It should support a strike against the regime, or at least its installations, to deter anyone from using chemical weapons in the future.
Iraq should also change its stance from being an irrelevant factor in the Syrian crisis to becoming a player that has its own agenda and ensures its own security.
The Iraqi government has adopted a neutral stance over the Syrian conflict, while really slanting toward supporting the regime. Meanwhile, Iraq’s Sunnis are backing the opposition and its Kurds are taking a neutral stance — though they exercise influence in the Kurdish areas and are suffering a growing refugee crisis.
With every new day and new development in the conflict Iraq’s position is becoming less relevant and important, compared to the regional parties in the conflict. In the region, Turkey supports a US attack, Iran is against it and the Arab states are supportive but cannot express their stance as bluntly.
Iraqis should adopt a clear stance on the issue. They should support the US attack on the Syrian regime for its use of chemical weapons. Iraqis should remind the United States of its failure to act in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was gassing the Kurds.
A recent report in Foreign Policy magazine reveals that Washington supported Saddam even when it knew he was using chemical weapons.
However, Iraqis should not get into the logic of, “Because you did not act earlier you should not act now.”
Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds must live up to the challenge of uniting under a single stance and adopting a single vision and position, over an issue that impacts the country’s national security. Their lack of unity proves that divisions within Iraq are unique to the country and have little to do with external interventions.
Until Iraqis unite, Iran will remain the most influential party in Iraq, because it understands the divisions in Iraq and acts accordingly. America, on the other hand, will always linger behind. This is because it treats Iraq as one united country, and acts accordingly.