Only Israel will benefit from the Arab spring, Iraqi Prime Minister has warned the Arab world. As reported in the New York Times:
“There is no doubt that there is a country that is waiting for the Arab countries to be ripped and is waiting for internal corrosion,” [Maliki] said in Baghdad. “Zionists and Israel are the first and biggest beneficiaries of this whole process.”
Maliki has been conspicuously quiet about events in Syria, and Iraq seems to be keeping ties open. Some analysts point to this as a sign of Iran’s growing influence in Iraq.Up to a point, yes, but the Arab rising in Syria (the only Arab rising that really matters to Iraq) is a predominantly Sunni revolt against a minority Shi’a regime. Anytime sectarianism dominates the Middle Eastern scene, Iraq gets pushed toward Iran. Iraq has reasons of its own for not welcoming Sunni rule in Syria; Sunni tribes in Iraq gave the government fits during the civil war; with a friendly government in Syria and the Saudis looking to pressure Iran and its Shi’a cohorts by any means possible, Sunni power in Damascus could mean more violence in Iraq. It will certainly strengthen the hand of Iraqi Sunnis, forcing changes in the Baghdad pecking order.Iraqi politicians aren’t necessarily making pro-Assad speeches because they are clients of Iran. They are doing it because the new Middle East that is trying to emerge — a bit more democratic and on the whole a lot more anti-Shi’a — Iran is one of the few countries toward which they can turn.Saudis and others interested in containing Iran should be working with Iraqis to give them more options than Tehran.