Nussaibah Younis

The gulf between them: What Arab Gulf countries can learn from Iran’s approach to Iraq

The strong Iranian presence in Iraq troubles Arab Gulf leaders and discourages them from engaging with the country more deeply. Iran adopts a strategically pragmatic approach to Iraq, cooperating widely to maximise its influence while working hard to retain vital Iraqi economic support, especially vis-à-vis its rivalry with the US. In contrast, Arab Gulf states’ approaches to Iraq have been stop-start – although Iraq’s own weak governance also contributes to this. Popular Iraqi anger at Iranian influence allows Arab Gulf states to present a positive image of themselves as potential investors in Iraq’s economy. Europeans should encourage Arab Gulf states to act more strategically on Iraq. An Iraq that has diverse regional relationships is more likely to be stable and secure, in line with European interests in the Middle East.

European Council on Foreign Relations

The University of Chicago