A very interesting analysis by Tarek Tarshishi which was published today (11/11/2014) on Al-Joumhouria (a Lebanese daily). It centres on a possible new pivotal role that the Iraqi diplomacy might be able to play in the very near future.
The post-Saddam Iraq is closer to its neighbours than most of them are to each other. It has good relations with Iran, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and working on thawing the recent freeze with Saudi Arabia. Last but not least, it is also close to the United States. This puts it in a unique regional position, one that it can use as a broker and a mediator. The author examines those scenarios.
The article ends up on a very positive note that is based on the recent Lebanese Army takeover of the city of Tripoli and the ousting of ISIS sympathisers from Lebanon's second largest city and the entire Northern Lebanon.
Changes within Complex Crises; Iraq’s Emerging Mediator Role.
By Tarek Tarshishi 11/11/2014
Translated By Ghassan Kadi and Intibah Wakeup
Observers are watching with interest the new direction the Iraq government is taking towards two states that it was only recently still accusing of backing terrorist organisations within Mesopotamia.
Those observers are wondering what the real reasons are behind the recent visit of the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Dr Ibrahim Jaafari, to Turkey and the huge reception he received. They wonder if this reception was based on economics in which Turkey seeks an open trade channel for its goods and products to Arabia and the Gulf and where it can remain open with Iraq providing the logistics for this route, thereby bolstering the Turkish economy at a time when its future seems uncertain.
Or, was this visit and reception the result of political interests reflecting the Turkish wish to stifle the project of an independent Kurdistan based in Northern Iraq, expanding westwards towards Turkey and Syria, given that both countries have common concerns regarding this project?
Or, was this visit related to oil supplies to Turkey and the construction of gas pipes from Iraq and the Gulf leading to the Turkish ports on the Mediterranean? And, last but not least, was it about reviewing the strategies that have been imposed upon Turkey in view of the recent developments in Syria and the recent attack of the international alliance on ISIS and Al Nusra and the Turkish embarrassment that followed?
The observers are also asking; will Iraq, with its close ties with Iran and Turkey, enable Turkish President Erdogan to review his position towards the Syrian crisis and offer him a bridge? Or does Iraq simply want Turkey to stop supporting the armed as well as unarmed opposition to its new government?
Obviously, what is going to make Turkey’s need for Iraq exceed Iraq’s need for Turkey is the current visit of the Iraqi President, Fouad Maasoum, to Riyadh at a time when competition between Saudi Arabia and Turkey for the Sunni leadership in the region is at its highest. This competition is seen most clearly in the insistence of the Turkish and Qatari funded Jabhat al Nusra to liquidate all Islamist organisations that are sponsored by Riyadh in the Idlib and Aleppo regions.
The expected Saudi reception to the Iraqi President draws a lot of interest least of which, due to the recent declaration of the Iraqi President, that the way to confront ISIS starts with overcoming the differences and political divisions in Iraq; issues in which Saudi Arabia can play a big role in overcoming.
The Sunni and Kurdish Iraqi President, Maasoum, is going to Riyadh to establish a new relationship between Baghdad and the land of the holy Islamic shrines. This relationship will have positive repercussions on the Sunni-Shia relationships on the one hand and, on the other hand, of the relationship between Saudi Arabia with Iran and Syria.
The easing of the Saudi – Iraqi relationship, as seen by the observers, will take the relationships between Riyadh and Damascus half way, and, it will also open some pathways between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran. This development in the Saudi – Iraqi relationship cannot be looked at in isolation from the trilateral talks between American Foreign Secretary, Kerry, and his Iranian and EU counterparts, Jawad Zarif and Catherine Ashton in Oman. According to expectations, these talks are going to pave way for significant steps to resolve the Western-Iranian nuclear impasse despite the doubts of the non-enthusiastic hawks.
From this perspective, many read in Obama’s letter to the Spiritual leader of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, a tacit assurance to hawkish Iranians that a deal with Washington will not be at the expense of Iran and that, in fact, it could lead to several economic and political easing that will give Iran a bigger role regionally and internationally.
This letter also forms the foundation to clarify that America’s revision of the Syrian crisis clearly indicates that its priorities now are fighting ISIS and similar organisations and not toppling Bashar al Assad.
These developments coincide with Western and Arabic reports that speak of the bilateral Russo-Egyptian role in facilitating a diplomatic solution in Syria which starts with a cease-fire in the hot regions in the north and the south of the country alike, all the way through the Homs region which was recently visited by the UN envoy, Staffan de Mistura , during which he met with the Homs Province governor Talal al Barazi as well as representatives of the opposition in an attempt to find a resolution for the fighters in Hai Alwar, in line with what has happened to other fighters in the old city of Homs earlier on.
The observers see that the flurry of diplomatic activities between the regional capitals and the rest of the world will result in the easing of many complex crises including the Syrian crisis. This includes moving towards a resolution that retains the presidency of Assad and allows keeping the doors open for an opposition that has not been involved in bloodshed in order that they participate in a national conciliation government.
To this effect, the information points to Moscow and Cairo working in conjunction to foster and promote a Syrian opposition entity headed by the previous president of the Syrian National Council, Ahmad Mouaz al Khatib. Al Khatib is accepted by Washington as a representative of the moderate opposition and one with whom the government is prepared to debate with in order to finalise the conciliation process which has thus far included 43 geographical areas.
Is it possible now to say that Iraq’s political move towards Ankara and Riyadh is changing its status from a playground to a player in the regions’ conflict? Has the international, regional and Arabic community conceded that Assad will stay as a President, changing the priorities instead to fighting terrorism? This was the priority that the official Syrian delegation took to Geneva II whilst the opposition, on the other hand at that time, was prioritizing forming an interim government, one that Lebanese leader Walid Jumblatt predicted President Assad would remain the leader of.
As for ISIS, it seems to be another story altogether. All indications from reports emerging from Syrian Ain al Arab (Kobani) all the way to the Iraqi town of Biji, indicate that the Caliph Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has been injured in a recent air strike. Before that, the recent developments in Tripoli and the rest of Northern Lebanon all indicate that ISIS has entered the countdown phase (that will mark its end).