Neighbors must help Iraq grow

The Iraq War will never end without an increase in support from Iraq’s neighbors. This includes an increased diplomatic presence in Baghdad, a stronger effort to prevent weapons and fighters from crossing into Iraq and more cooperation with the United States.

In 2003, the Jordanian Embassy was attacked, killing 17 – all Iraqis. That same year, the United Nations Headquarters in Baghdad was attacked twice. This resulted in the removal of virtually all U.N. humanitarian workers. Their work has since been replaced by Jordanian nongovernmental agencies working under U.N. supervision.

Since then, Jordan has returned to establish its embassy in Iraq, while the U.N. has yet to increase its presence and maintains its offices in Amman, Jordan.

Although 34 nations have embassies in Iraq, among its neighbors, only Jordan and Turkey maintain embassies. Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait and Syria do not. Given increased security gains by Iraqi and coalition forces, and the fragility of this new lull in violence, these nations must to establish a larger presence in Iraq.

Given the centuries-old rivalry between Persians in Iran and the Arab people, an Iraqi government that cozies too closely to Iran has unsurprisingly alienated and worried its neighbors. This is one reason that most of Iraq’s Arab neighbors have avoided keeping the symbolic presence of an embassy.

Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki has been accused of being a puppet for Iran and taking his orders from its ayatollah. There is a strong case for this, but Maliki is the head of Iraq’s government for the time being.

Nations who take issue with his affiliation would serve their own cause more by establishing a permanent diplomatic presence in Iraq. Iraq is treated by most of the world as a lost cause, so why should they not turn to the ally who helped and continues to help its majority Shiite population, Iran? To counter this and help the fragile nation find alternatives to bowing to its Shiite big brother, other Arab nations should increase their identity in Baghdad and diversify outlets to which the Iraq government can turn for support. The polarizing situation of the U.S. versus Iran does nothing to secure the peaceful future of Iraq and its people.

The Associated Press reported Sunday on a possible U.S. attack on a Syrian target along the Iraq border. The target was allegedly an al-Qaida group that has enjoyed movement between Syria and Iraq.

Foreign fighters smuggle weapons and cash into Iraq to support a struggling and apparently waning insurgency. They come not only from Syria, but from Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iraq’s neighbors have a duty and a responsibility to make all efforts to secure their borders. An focus on border security would not only save Iraqi and American lives, but also increase their own nations’ security. Most of these countries are run by unpopular, regimes, and the insurgent movement could easily spill into their borders. The lives these despots save may be their own.

If they choose not to clamp down, strikes by American forces may increase and continue to upset the region.

Regardless of any political candidate’s promises, the U.S. will be in Iraq for a long time. Iraq’s neighbors must understand this and work with the U.S. to help secure stability.

The "wait-and-see" approach to Iraq has passed, and neighboring nations must increase their efforts to support the coalition and Iraqi forces’ mission of defeating the insurgency and aid the rebuilding of Iraqi’s civil society.

The U.S. is the dominant foreign force in Iraq, and through its various agencies operating in the country, neighboring countries’ strategic intelligence, monetary aid and resources would help immensely. With the U.S.’s "foot in the door," these nations can help return the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi refugees to an Iraq that can count on all of its neighbors.

To do this, Iran, Syria and the U.S. must normalize diplomatic relations. This situation is complicated, to say the least. But with a common goal, these nations can take steps toward a more diplomacy-centered policy in a region ravaged by eternal war.

While Iraq has made tremendous efforts toward internal peace and stability and has had many recent successes, it is ultimately the success of the "neighborhood" at large that will determine its future – for good or ill.

Webb, a political science and creative writing senior and Opinion section editor, can be reached via [email protected]

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