Iraq rejects anti-Iran stance of leaders at summit in Saudi Arabia

Iraq rejected the final communique from the Islamic and Arab and Gulf summits in Mecca that strongly rebuked Iran, saying it didn’t participate in its formulation in a bid for Iraq to avoid being a battlefield between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

“While Iraq reiterates its denouncement of any act that may target the security of the Kingdom and the security of our brothers in the Gulf, we would like to clarify that we didn’t participate in formulating the final communique and registers its objection against the final communiqué in its current form,” reported Iraq’s state media al-Iraqiya, quoting Ahmed Aboul Gheit, the secretary-general of the Arab League.

Iraq’s objections were to a final communique of the emergency Gulf Cooperation Council summit hosted by Saudi King Salman on Thursday. It contained heavy anti-Iran language.

“The Council emphasized the positions of the Supreme Council and its firm decisions on relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran, stressing the need for Iran to abide by principles based on the Charter of the United Nations and international law, the principles of good neighborliness, respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in internal affairs and the non-use of force,” the readout stated.

“The Council also called on Iran to stop supporting, funding and arming militias and terrorist organizations, and refrain from feeding sectarian conflicts, calling on the Iranian regime to exercise wisdom, staying away from hostilities and destabilizing security and stability,” it added.

The GCC called for action by the international community against Iran, especially to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons and to curb its missile programs.

Saudi Arabia, and allies the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, are in a regional battle for Middle East influence with Iran. In Yemen, Syria and elsewhere, the two camps have had proxy wars.

Iraq, as a Shiite-majority country between Saudi Arabia and Iran, fears it is going to be the battlefield for a proxy war between the two.

The GCC reiterated that it supports the US strategy towards Iran “including toward confronting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, its destabilizing activities in the region, and its support for terrorism.”

Iraqi President Barham Salih asserted in his GCC speech that the current tensions and crisis “if not managed well” could lead to a regional and international confrontation that will wreak havoc “on our countries.”

Despite the anti-Iran hostility among the council, the Iraqi president stood his ground, describing Iran as a “Muslim a country — a neighbor to Iraq and the Arabs.”

“We have a 1,400 kilometer border with them, multiple ties and relations. We believe that the security and stability of a neighboring Islamic country is in the interest and one of the foundations of Arab and Islamic countries,” the Iraqi president posited.

Iran responded in a tirade against the final communique, asserting that not all members supported it.

Abbas Mousavi, the spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, said the Islamic Republic is “confident” that the statement doesn’t reflect the viewpoints of all the members of Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Saudi Arabia has “exploited” the meeting as the host to “attribute allegations against Iran,” Mousavi claimed.

This latest interaction further deepens the rift between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Saudis have pushed heavily for more sanctions and more pressure against Iran.

Iraq, however, has said that it doesn’t want that regional tug of war to occur on its land, saying it wants balanced relations with everyone to avoid any type of confrontation. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi has rejected the idea that Baghdad is any position to negotiate between Washington and Tehran.

However, fears have escalated amid mounting US pressure and sanctions against Iran. In May 2018, the US president Donald Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran, claiming it didn’t prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons nor did it curb its regional adventurism.

As a result, Trump has imposed a raft of sanctions targeting Iran’s banking, metal, trade, energy and oil sectors, weakening Iran’s already faltering economy further.

Tensions grew earlier this month as oil structures were targeted near the Port of Fujairah and a rocket landed within the Green Zone in Baghdad. US National Security Advisor John Bolton has blamed Iran for the attacks in the Emirates and said he believes Iran is also behind the instability in Iraq.

This month, the United States has announced it was deploying an additional 1,500 troops to the Middle East, along with the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Group, B-52 bombers, and an amphibious assault unit.