A history of Iraq-Syria relations
Even a casual look back at Iraq-Syria relations, especially over the past 50 years, aptly demonstrates that Baghdad and Damascus have been. Iraq-Syria relations. Illustrative: Iraqi army reinforcements drive down a road, linking Hawija to Kirkuk, near. July 1, , pm. Iraq begins building border . The decision by Syria to support the anti-Iraq coalition during the Gulf War has to be understood within the wider political geographic and historical regional.
Ba'ath Party Iraqi-dominated faction and Ba'ath Party Syrian-dominated faction Efforts by Syrians and Iraqis to unite Iraq and Syria into one country have existed since the creation of the modern states. Such unification efforts were to continue under the Ba'ath Party.
Hostility between Syria and Iraq started in the when both were under Ba'athist rule. Relations improved in the early s during the Yom Kippur Warbut deteroriated again following Syria's acceptance of the UN-sponsored ceasefire. After the WarSyrian President Hafez al-Assad made several attempts in and to settle his differences with Iraq arising from Syria's acceptance of UN Resolution which led to the ceasefire in the War; Iraq withdrew the expeditionary force it had sent to help Syria as a result of Syria's acceptance of the ceasefire and establish a union between the two countries.
Iraq however rejected Assad's offers and denounced him for his "readiness to make peace" with Israel.
The Geopolitics of Syrian-Iraqi Relations
Strained relations between Iraq and Syria would continue up until The meaningful development of Syrian-Iraqi relations is not only prevented by American threats but also because of deep suspicions between the two regimes. History testifies to the failure of the two states to reach even the lowest level of accord. Thus, Syrian overtures to Iraq cannot be seen as a Syrian strategy but simply represent a high level of dissatisfaction with current regional and international politics, especially those of the United States.
The Syrians also have failed to get Iraq included in any possible Arab summit without the consent of the Gulf states and the international community. Normalization of relations with Iraq is then a Syrian strategic maneuver to pressure international and regional actors to satisfy some of its demands, for Syria participated in the international alliance against Iraq and has entered into the peace process with Israel.
Thus normalization cannot but be a card played by the Syrians to buttress its regional role; the Syrians will not cross red lines. Still, Syria has been justifying its position by the ideology of the Baath, which rejects the dismemberment of Arab countries, in this case Iraq. Iraq has gone along with this, since it is desperate to reduce its isolation.
The American presence in the Gulf has limited Iranian and Syrian influence over the Iraqi opposition and preempted any Iraqi change in favor of Syria. Washington has aimed at isolating Iran and pressuring Syria to give concessions to the Israelis and limit its support of Hizbollah. However, on issues relating to regional security, Syria has been able to galvanize other countries into action. When the Pentagon leaked a scenario for dividing Iraq into four regions, Syria was able to galvanize other countries to take part in the Tehran meeting between the foreign ministers of Syria, Iran and Turkey that issued a statement opposing any attempt to divide Iraq under any pretext because its division would lead to regional and international instability.
The direction of these relations wi11 hinge on Syria's strategic view of realities in the Arab world and the regional balance of power. For now, all possible fundamental and positive changes toward Iraq are on hold because they could lead to more economic and political pressure on Syria from the United States and Israel, which might transform the dual containment of Iraq and Iran into triple containment, to include Syria.
Syria and Iraq: One conflict or two? | European Council on Foreign Relations
Put simply, any Arab cooperation at a regional level that is perceived as a threat to Israel, even in the form of an Arab common market, will not be allowed to survive. While Iran's power is based on its security, military and demographic factors, Iraq has focused more on Arab nationalism to supplement its geopolitical position. Thus, Iraq raised the need to unify the eastern wing of the Arab world and gave itself the role of curbing Iranian ambition.
This is not new. Since the rule of Abdulkarim Qasim, there have been extensive efforts to sell this idea, to the point where Baghdad clashed with Cairo and Damascus over it. This was, again, the cornerstone in Iraq's expensive war with Iran, There is talk today, according to senior Iraqi officials, that Iraq could probably benefit from the change in the political map of the Middle East. There "are indicators we [Iraqis] have some room to maneuver, if we play our cards right," including the fact that Iraq is no longer a military threat to the Gulf states.
What remains is improving relations with Turkey and Israel. Turkey plans to sell water from the Euphrates and the Tigris to the Arab world, including Syria and Iraq, the two downstream beneficiaries. As to Israel, it has been rumored that Iraq is ready to sign a non-aggression treaty with Israel and to settle aboutPalestinians in Iraq as its contribution to ending the Middle East conflict.
Earlier this year, the Iraqi government granted 60, Palestinians living in Iraq a limited right of home ownership. Because of the need for Arab solidarity after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, the six GCC states entered into an alliance with Syria and Egypt, but later developments showed the weakness of this six-plus-two alliance. Since America has directly dominated the important security, political and economic affairs in the Gulf, the Damascus Declaration was never more than an informal meeting.
Syria was the ideological party in the alliance, being a "progressive" country ruled by the same Baath party that rules Iraq. The Baath party remained in control. Asad was elected president in While he brought stability to Syria, the country is suffering economic underdevelopment since spending on arms purchases has caused other sectors of the economy to lag behind in essential areas of economic growth, even in oil production and agriculture, the basic components of the economy, which are outdated and inefficient.
The slow pace of economic growth led to local and regional criticism of official Syrian economic policies. In the past, the Syrian economy depended on support from the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc as well as the Gulf and oil revenues. In light of the late Syrian president's extreme reluctance to present free gifts to the Israelis, the Syrians were also bothered by the Israeli infiltration of the Gulf region. Furthermore, Syrian policy was completely different from that of the GCC in other fields as well.
While during the second Gulf war Syria officially stood against the Iraqi invasion and became a member of the Damascus Declaration, Syria managed to keep a delicate balance between its relations with the GCC and with Iraq.
Like some other Arab countries, Syria participated in the Gulf War but it did not permit its forces to bomb or invade. Asad managed to strike a very delicate balance between his country's relations with the Gulf states and what he saw as his ideological commitments.
These commitments obliged the Syrian leader to reject Gulf states' requests that he silence or expel Damascus-based opposition groups. Anti-Oslo Palestinians and others can still engage in relatively free political activity from the safety of Syria. Marxists, nationalists, Islamists and Kurds.
The late Syrian president thus reconciled Syria's own interests with those of Arab nationalism. Given the resources of his country, he succeeded in managing his country's economy after the severe recession of the s, as well as in minimizing the negative effects of the Turkish-Israeli alliance. His intervention in Lebanon succeeded in containing that country's civil war. Asad wanted to ensure his continuation in power through his son Bashar after his death and had been preoccupied with the political transition, which required the gradual and slow transfer of power from the Old Guard to a new group of Bashar loyalists.
Former Prime Minister Mahmud al-Zoughbi's suicide and allegations of corruption about the once strong army chief of staff who fled Syria were indications that the days of President Asad were numbered.
But Bashar will find it hard to achieve a significant political breakthrough on the Gulf front, especially since Israel is on the lookout for any steps Syria might take. But Syria's stature in the Arab world will provide it with some degree of protection if the new leadership exploits it shrewdly.
Still, for the time being, the Syrian leadership will pay more attention to regional politics and the security of the regime than to economic welfare.
Syria and Iran share a long history of friendship. Besides standing together against Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, Tehran also provides Damascus with cheap oil, and the two countries hold a common position vis-a-vis Israel and support to the Lebanese Islamic Resistance.
This close relationship has provided the Syrians with considerable strategic backing and the Iranians with a foothold in the Arab world. The Israeli defeat in South Lebanon can also be used by Damascus as a card in its upcoming political battle with Israel. However, domestic actors motivated by country-specific grievances still remain the dominant force shaping events in both countries. Both are rooted in similar causes emanating from questions of political and sectarian representation, have witnessed similar outcomes as political dissent has morphed into armed conflict, most significantly the rise of ISIS, and will ultimately require similar solutions if peace is to return, namely new cross-sectarian political contracts.
But they are not the same and continue to be shaped by contrasting political economies. While Hafez al-Assad carefully cultivated the Baath party's core constituency, the rural periphery, his son, Bashar al-Assad, largely abandoned this grouping in favour of urban elites tied to the regime, fuelling unprecedented social inequality, which combined with the deepening corruption of the security state, exploded into a Sunni-dominated rebellion in Despite the emergence and rapid growth of ISIS in Syria, which is today estimated to number at least 10, fighters, the overwhelming majority of the approximatelyarmed fighters in the country are focused on securing political and economic empowerment, within the confines of the Syrian nation-state.
Even Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's official affiliate in Syria, has rejected transnational ambitions in favour of domestic objectives linked to the overthrow of Assad and the establishment of an Islamic state - as also displayed by other opposition groups including the Islamic Front.
While ISIS has been at the vanguard of recent armed advances, having maintained an ongoing presence in the country since the US occupation, the current uprising draws strongly on the anti-government sentiment of Sunni tribes and neo-Baathist forces with whom ISIS is in alliance.
As in Syria, however, the likes of the Naqshbandi Army and the General Military Council of the Iraqi Revolutionaries, which have been part of the recent offensive, are focused on more narrow ambitions rather than the establishment of a transnational Sunni caliphate pursued by ISIS. Over the last six months the Syria uprising has descended into an intra-rebel civil-war as rebel armed groups have turned on ISIS.
The ambitions displayed by the majority of opposition actors on both sides are largely set within the context of the existing nation-states.
In Iraq there are already signs of tension and conflict between ISIS and local tribes, who it should not be forgotten turned on ISIS once before as part of the Awakening movement that began in If anything, the local contexts suggest that even as some forces bind the two conflicts together, others will push them towards increasing fragmentation.
The war economy of Syria points to the powerful forces of decentralisation now at play as the central state loses its ability to control events on the ground, even in areas nominally still under its authority, and as intra-rebel discord becomes more pronounced.
This consolidation of localised power bases and of the proliferation of competing rivalries could well also become a prominent feature in Iraq as the anti-Maliki alliance faces the strain of competing rebel ambitions.
Meanwhile, as Sunni forces have advanced towards Baghdad, the Kurds have quietly extended their own influence, using the breakdown in authority to move into the highly-disputed city of Kirkuk.
It is true that these developments are in many ways different forms of a similar process now unfolding across the entire region. ISIS represents the extreme end of a broader struggle underway as Sunni populations look to redress political and economic marginalization. This process and the sectarian framing, in part, represents the continued undoing of the post-colonial order, loosened by the US led invasion of Iraq in which allowed the Shia majority to seize power from the Sunni minority who had ruled the country since the Ottoman era.
Recent events in Iraq are part of the continued fallout from this redistribution of power.Why Don't Syria, Iran, Iraq And Turkey Want A Kurdistan? - AJ+