Saudi Arabia Must Come Off the Sidelines in Iraq

Saudi Arabia Must Come Off the Sidelines in Iraq

At a recent forum on U.S.-Saudi relations in Washington, D.C., current and former Saudi officials decried the previous U.S. administration's Middle East policies. Yet in shunning the Shiite-dominated government of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a regime they deem inimical to their interests, the Saudis -- along with other Sunni Arab regimes -- appear to have internalized the core foreign policy impulse of the Bush administration.

This myopic approach has had the perverse effect of amplifying Iran's already outsized influence in Iraq and throughout the region. It has also fueled Iraqi suspicions about the intentions of its Sunni Arab neighbors, hindering the reintegration of Iraq into the Arab world.

Now, as the U.S attempts to maintain Iraqi stability while gradually drawing down its military forces, it has increased pressure on Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries to begin normalizing relations with Iraq. On his recent trip to the region, U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reiterated his appeal to Riyadh and Cairo to appoint ambassadors to Baghdad. At the same time, he offered broader reassurances that any future U.S.-Iranian rapprochement would not come at the expense of longstanding relationships between Washington and its Sunni Arab allies in the region.

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