April 30, 2005


Iraq’s neighbors are increasingly supporting the interim government and opposing the Sunni Arab and al Qaeda terrorists. Most of them are more or less are opposed to radical Islamist movements, so that is one thread linking them together. But there are also other issues affecting the stance taken by the various countries surrounding Iraq. Turkey seems in favor of a strong centralized Iraqi government so that the Iraqis can keep the Kurds under control. The Gulf Arabs want to see a strong Iraq as a counterbalance to Iran, though the Kuwaitis are somewhat concerned that a revived Iraqi military might threaten them. Jordan sees the potential need for a strong ally in the event of problems with Syria, while Syria seems inclined to support the new Iraqi regime if only as a way to improve ties with the U.S. Two countries are less committed to the new Iraqi government. Saudi Arabia is tentative about supporting Iraq, since it has to balance its brand of conservative Islam with the certainty that a successful democratic — or at least representative — government in Iraq will probably be strongly secular. The Iranians don’t want Iraq to fall under the control of either the Sunni Arab dominated Baath Party, or the Sunni Islamists (represented now by al Qaeda), both their blood enemies, but have reservations about a secular, democratic Iraq and about American influence in the region. The Iranian situation is complicated by the fact that their country is a clandestine conduit for the movement of Islamist personnel and money among Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.

I think this counts as progress.

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