Iraqi government officials see Saudi Arabia, not Iran, as the biggest threat to the integrity and cohesion of their fledgling democratic state, leaked US state department cables reveal.
The Iraqi concerns, analysed in a dispatch sent from the US embassy in Baghdad by then ambassador Christopher Hill in September 2009, represent a fundamental divergence from the American and British view of Iran as arch-predator in Iraq.
“Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging given Riyadh’s money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes and [Saudi] suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence,” Hill writes.
“Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to varying degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government.”
Hill’s unexpected assessment flies in the face of the conventional wisdom that Iranian activities, overt and covert, are the biggest obstacle to Iraq’s development.
It feeds claims, prevalent after the 9/11 attacks, that religiously conservative, politically repressive Saudi Arabia, where most of the 9/11 terrorists came from, is the true enemy of the west.