Under pressure from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League has indefinitely postponed a planned summit meeting in Baghdad. In an email interview, Sean Foley, a Fulbright scholar at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization in Kuala Lumpur and author of "The Arab Gulf States: Beyond Oil and Islam," discussed Iraq-GCC relations.
WPR: What has been the state of relations between post-Saddam Iraq and the GCC?
Sean Foley: While both Iraq and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries are energy-producing states allied with Washington, they have poor diplomatic relations. Shiite Arabs dominate Iraq and have close ties with Shiite Iran, while Arab monarchies hostile to Iran dominate the GCC states: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Baghdad and GCC capitals also accuse each other of seeking to influence each other's internal affairs. Saudi Arabia has supported Iraq's Sunni Arabs opposed to Baghdad, and Saudis and other Gulf nationals stand accused of promoting religious extremism and terrorism in Iraq. At the same time, Gulf leaders fear the influence of Iraq's foremost religious figure, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. Many Shiites in the GCC states look to al-Sistani for guidance in spiritual and worldly affairs. Further poisoning relations is the residual distrust dating back to Iraq's 1990s invasion of Kuwait and GCC support for Iraqi governments that repressed Shiite Arabs.