The geopolitical tensions between Iran and the Arab powers have now reached a new destination- Iraq. In fact, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have already started preparing for it. Iraq would have been Iran’s first target after a prospective US-Iran nuclear deal. Yet, the UAE and Saudi Arabia stand in the way of Tehran’s ambitions.
The two Arab powers are funnelling billions of dollars in investments in Iraq. This is a way to consolidate power and influence in the country. Till now, Iraq has been monkey balancing among three powers- the United States of America, Iran and the Arabs. Yet, back to back investments of the two Arab nations are ensuring that it does not need to do monkey balancing any longer.
Recently, Saudi Arabia announced that it will put $3 billion into a joint fund with Iraq to speed up development in the private sector. After a visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi, the Kingdom announced that the joint fund will be for the “benefit of the Saudi and Iraqi economies, with the participation of the private sector from both sides”.
The UAE too announced a $3 billion investment in Iraq in order to bolster economic and investment relations between the two nations. The UAE and Iraq also issued a joint statement at the conclusion of the Iraqi Prime Minister’s visit to the UAE.
The message coming from the UAE and Saudi Arabia is quite clear. They want Iraq to give a cold shoulder to Tehran so that the country no longer needs to balance out things between the two big powers in the region.
The Arab powers want Iraq to stay on their side and deepen the fraternal relations between them. The deal is such that the Arabs want to compel Iraq on their side, while they will empower the country against a common enemy in Iran.
The Arab powers are securing the alliance with Iraq at a time when the Biden administration has agreed to engage in talks with Iran for renewing the Iran Nuclear Deal, which both Israel and Arab powers oppose vehemently as they believe that this will make it easier for Iran to acquire a nuclear bomb disturbing peace in the entire middle-east region.
As such, Iraq remains a soft target for Iran. It is still recovering from the scars left by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. Within the country, there is a lot of political volatility. Moreover, Tehran’s involvement inside Iraq creates trouble for the Arabs as Iranian proxies active in the war-torn nation are a security threat for Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
By investing billions of dollars in Iraq, the Arab powers are telling it that they will empower the nation to stand up in face of external threats like the Iranian proxies. In return, the Arabs want some sense of assurance from Iraq. Mustafa Al Kadhimi, for example, said, “Iraq will never become a launch pad for attacks on Saudi Arabia.” This is to suggest that Iranian proxies will never be allowed to use Iraqi soil for attacking the two big Arab powers.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia knew that Iraq will be the next point in the ongoing Arab-Iran geopolitical context. So, they have not only anticipated the future course of action but have also made a big move to secure Iraqi cooperation.