US Foreign Policy

Iraq, its Neighbors, and the Obama Administration: Syrian and Saudi Perspectives

in Program

A Report by the US Institute of Peace and the Stimson Center 

A group of experts sponsored by USIP and the Stimson Center traveled to Syria and Saudi Arabia to interview government officials-including President Assad of Syria and Prince Turki al-Faysal of Saudi Arabia-and a range of others about their views of Iraq. Syria and Saudi Arabia do not look at Iraq in isolation, nor do they assign it top priority among their foreign policy concerns. For them, Iraq is merely one element in a comprehensive view encompassing other regional players (including the US and Iran) and other regional crises, particularly the Arab-Israeli conflict. The top concern for both Riyadh and Damascus remains blowback from Iraq: the ascendance of ethnic and sectarian identity and the spread of Islamic militancy. The need to contain this threat is the dominant force that shapes their relations with Iraq. Both Syria and Saudi Arabia have a vital interest in ensuring that Iraq’s emerging political order is inclusive of Sunni Arab Iraqis, who have not yet been fully incorporated into Iraqi institutions.

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