Iraq considers Riyadh regime a bigger threat than Iran

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The Independent Online

Senior figures in the Iraqi government view Saudi Arabia as a greater threat to their country's security than Iran, according to WikiLeaks' latest release.

A communiqué sent from the US embassy in Baghdad in September 2009, by the then US ambassador Christopher Hill, reveals that Iraqi officials think one of America's most important allies in the Middle East is a bigger danger to their fledgling democracy than the country consistently painted by the West as the most serious menace to stability in the region.

Mr Hill's analysis of the potentially explosive rivalry between the Arab states found religious divisions were the major cause of tension – Saudi Arabia is a Sunni Muslim state while Iraq and Iran are both Shia-controlled – and underlined that the international friend of America and Britain could be just as dangerous as their enemy Iran.

"Iraq views relations with Saudi Arabia as among its most challenging, given Riyadh's money, deeply ingrained anti-Shia attitudes, and suspicions that a Shia-led Iraq will inevitably further Iranian regional influence," wrote Mr Hill. "Iraqi contacts assess that the Saudi goal (and that of most other Sunni Arab states, to vary degrees) is to enhance Sunni influence, dilute Shia dominance and promote the formation of a weak and fractured Iraqi government."

He noted that Iraqi ministers, by contrast, place relations with Iran in a "special category". They believed it posed "risks that are manageable and not viewed as existential threats to the [Iraqi] state". He added that while Iraq believed its dealings with Saudi Arabia were its "most problematic", Baghdad was "usually careful with US officials to avoid overly harsh criticism, given our close relations with the Saudis".

However, writing 11 months before the US withdrew combat troops from Iraq, Mr Hill made clear that other sources were convinced that Tehran was a more significant hazard to Iraq than the Iraqis believed.

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