A Khaleej Times editorial
13 August 2008
JORDAN'S King Abdullah has become the first Arab head of state to visit Iraq after the US Invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. The very fact that Abdullah is the first Arab leader to come calling after all these years illuminates the huge gulf that currently exists between Baghdad and rest of the Arab world.
But perhaps it's understandable if Arab leaders have been avoiding the country that was once the political and cultural centre of the Arab-Muslim world. Given the state of affairs in the country after the Invasion, especially the challenges on security front, you can't really blame the Arab leaders if Baghdad hasn't figured on their itinerary for nearly five years. Only last month, the Jordan monarch had to call off a long-planned visit to Baghdad last minute following a security alert.
Iraq's Arab and Muslim neighbours cannot forever keep the country out in the cold though. Not because the US and its Western allies say so. But because Iraq needs the support of its Arab and Muslim neighbours like never before.
The 2003 Invasion and subsequent civil war have completely wrecked the infrastructure of the country that was once the most progressive and developed country in the Middle East. Thanks to the coalition of the willing, Iraq today needs assistance on all fronts — from peace-making efforts to massive reconstruction and rehabilitation projects. From building basic infrastructure like water and electricity projects and hospitals and schools to helping the country get back to its feet on economic and industrial fronts, the Arab neighbours can and should help Iraq at this critical stage.
The Arab neighbours can also assist Iraq in peace efforts and healing the wounds inflicted by the unprecedented Sunni-Shia conflict that broke out after the Invasion. The Arabs and Iraq have both paid a huge price for neglecting the people of Iraq. While the Arab influence in Baghdad has dramatically dwindled since the Invasion, the Iranian stock has gone up thanks to their close ties with the Shia leadership of Iraq. Maybe it's not right to view the issue through the prism of a Sunni-Shia conflict. But you can't deny the fact that the Arab and Muslim world cannot afford to neglect the issue any more and must do more to heal the rift.
Source: Khaleej Times, Pakistan