Iraq, Kuwait Chart a New Path

For Kuwait, the reasons for opening up to Iraq are the following: First, its concern about the potential repercussions of the escalating confrontation in the Gulf between Iran and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) over Syria, in particular, and over the Iranian anti-status quo policies, in light of the latter’s growing influence in Baghdad, namely with the Maliki government. Second, its concern with the GCC tension with the Maliki government over Syria amid increasing sectarianism that will have an effect at home because of its societal composition. Third, there is also the feeling that Iraq’s Maliki needs to break out from the GCC anti-Iraqi policy that is also siding with and supporting the anti-Maliki forces in Iraq, accusing the Maliki government of pursuing anti-Sunni policies at home.

From the Iraqi perspective, this means that Baghdad would be more flexible on the issue of borders to make a breach in the same Gulf monarchy’s policy.

On the Iraqi side, Maliki’s government needs to free itself from the heavy pressure of being under UN Chapter 7 and the cost that it entails irrespective of the payment of the remaining penalty to the Kuwaitis. Getting out of Chapter 7 will have important political and economic benefits for a besieged government. Equally important is Maliki’s need to make a breach in the political containment and confrontation that the GCC is following against Iraq, the latter being attacked for engaging in an anti-Sunni policy at home, an anti-Syrian revolution abroad and siding with Iran.

The Maliki government is definitely encouraged by its new Iranian friends to do so. Thus, for Kuwait the timing is of the essence. The Kuwaitis could profit from this moment to settle a historically haunting problem with Iraq over its revisionist policies against Kuwait by settling the differences on territorial problems. This helps consolidate a more balanced policy in the Gulf without changing its position on the Syrian crisis. Such a policy could also have a positive impact on its relations with Iran and could at the same time create some concerns in the GCC family. It is part of, or a return to, a well-known Kuwaiti pragmatic foreign policy.

Ambassador Nassif Hitti is a senior Arab League official and the former head of the Arab League Mission in Paris. He is a former representative to UNESCO and a member of the Al-Monitor board of directors. The views he presents here are his alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of these organizations.

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