Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Hereís how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.


 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate

Subscribe!
Subscribe





On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.
___________

Syndicate
RSS/XML


RSS 2.0

The tangled web of Middle Eastern alliances

By Peter Coates - posted Monday, 18 December 2006


The US can leave Iraq when it wishes but regional powers such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel will have to pick up the pieces.

A US centric explanation would suggest these powers only act because America exists, but shifting the focus to regional initiatives presents aspects less familiar to our US dominated media.

In summary it appears that Iran has launched a diplomatic offensive to paint itself as a force for peace in Iraq. Less known is Saudi Arabia’s campaign to limit Iranian influence in Iraq, and in the Middle East generally, through forming an anti-Iranian alliance.

Advertisement

Israel, meanwhile, is quietly co-operating, to some extent, with the Saudis to counter growing Iranian power. All this represents a new and complicated series of possible strategies, both overt and covert, for regional players.

Iran’s Shiite alliance

As a generalisation Iran is attempting to create a Shiite alliance for mutual defence and to spread the Shiite strand of Islam. Iran can already count on Hezbollah-dominated southern Lebanon as part of the alliance.

Iran's President Ahmadinejad clearly hopes to influence the future direction of Iraq through overt contact with Iraqi Shiite leaders and perhaps through covertly supporting the powerful Shiite militias in Iraq. Iran wishes to alter its image from a “rogue state” (that might be a target for US and Israeli airstrikes against its nuclear infrastructure) to being seen as a benign and conciliatory leader in the region.

In September 2006 Iraq’s leader Prime Minister Maliki (a Shiite but toeing the US line) made a short scheduled visit to Iran and spoke of non-interference in each others affairs.

However, Iraq now appears to be courting some Iranian involvement as reflected in discussions in late November 2006, in Iran, between Iraqi President Talabani (a Kurd) and Iranian President Ahmadinejad. Talabani was quoted on Iranian television as saying: "We are in dire need of Iran's help in establishing security and stability in Iraq."

President Ahmadinejad attempted to make the November 2006 meeting at least a three-way summit by also inviting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Syria did not respond to the invitation, however, and may be aiming to strengthen its position by sitting on the fence.

Advertisement

Syria perhaps rejected honorary membership of Iran’s Shiite alliance on sectarian grounds (Syria is majority Sunni) or it is possible Syria is being given incentives by Saudi Arabia and threats from Israel not to side too closely with Iran’s projects.

Saudi Arabia’s anti-Iranian alliance

Saudi Arabia has many concerns over the Iraq war. It fears an escalation from a militia and al-Qaida fuelled civil war to a conventional war in which Iran’s armed forces (powerful relative to Iraqi and Saudi forces) might intervene and prevail. The Saudis also fear Iran’s ability to incite violence within Saudi Arabia by influencing the kingdom’s Shiite minority.

Ultimately the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia may fear a Shiite alliance could strengthen Iran by allowing it to divert more resources away from conventional military security towards its nuclear program.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. 2
  4. All


Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

26 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with del.icio.us Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Peter Coates has been writing articles on military, security and international relations issues since 2006. In 2014 he completed a Masterís Degree in International Relations, with a high distinction average. His website is Submarine Matters.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Peter Coates

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Photo of Peter Coates
Article Tools
Comment 26 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend
Advertisement

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy