Can US-Sunni Alliance lure Baghdad away from Tehran?

This meeting appeared to be a test of Abadi’s ability to act outside Iran’s framework of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). The PMU, a coalition of mostly Shiite militias in Iraq, reports to Abadi but is backed by Iran.

Zafer al-Ani, an Iraqi parliament member for the Sunni Alliance of Forces, told Al-Monitor that all these attempts “are a step on the road to bringing Iraq back to the Arab ranks, after it has been under the influence of Iran since 2003” — the year Saddam Hussein’s anti-Iran regime fell. Hussein was a secular dictator, but a Sunni, nonetheless, who oppressed the Shiite majority.

Ani said, “All neighboring countries of Iraq, especially Saudi Arabia, ought to help Iraq financially and militarily to get it out from under Iran’s influence, which prevails over many Shiite leaders and parties.”

Political analyst Wathiq al-Jabri questioned how successful the attempts can be. “Asserting that this summit will achieve the desired goals in relation to Iraq is a subject of controversy, if not doubt,” Jabri told Al-Monitor.

“The Iraqi forces’ link to Iran and the momentum of victory over IS [the Islamic State] will affect the developments of the region. This is while Washington is convinced of the Arab governments’ dependency [on the US] and their divided stances, which makes it even more difficult to include Iraq in the Sunni Arab Alliance,” Jabri said.

He noted that Iraq “could play a role as a mediator between Iran and its opponents, which is a more realistic possibility than counting on distancing Baghdad from Tehran. This is especially true since Iraq’s participation in the Riyadh summit was more symbolic, as Iraqi President Fuad Massum attended, and not Abadi.”

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