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Iraq - Regional Relations


Before US invasion, Iraq's relations with Jordan have almost always been amicable, both politically and economically. Jordan supported Iraq during the war against Iran militarily and economically. So much so that Iraqi planes found refuge in Jordanian airfields to escape Iranian attacks. Jordan also trained Iraqi pilots on its aircraft. King Hussein of Jordan sided with Saddam during his invasion of Kuwait. After the end of the war Jordan continued to serve as one of the major gateways for the supply of aid to Iraq.

The Iraqi – Jordanian relationship is based on the following foundations: Both counties were established and initially run as pro British regimes Joint hostility towards Israel (prior to the peace agreement between Jordan and Israel in 1994) joint hostility towards the Iranian government of Ayatollah Khomeini and its plans to export its brand of Shiite Islam Jordan being a major gateway for export of Iraqi oil Iraq being a major destination for export of Jordanian goods Large investments by Iraqis in Jordan, especially in the construction and trade sector

The Jordanian government is currently one of the major backers of the new Iraqi regime and has offered its support for the recent elections and establishment of democracy in Iraq. This is based on the logic that a rich and stable Iraq is a positive contributor towards economic growth and stability in Jordan.

Saudi Arabia

Relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iraq were amicable until the start of the Iraq – Iran war in 1980. As the Saudi government also viewed the Iranian regime of ayatollah Khomeini as a threat, the common threat perception between the two countries gave rise to economic and military co-operation between them. As a result Saudi Arabia provided Iraq with billions of dollars worth of aid and loans, plus military assistance in the form of intelligence information provided to Iraq from its highly sophisticated AWACS surveillance aircraft. It is also claimed that on at least one occasion Saudi Arabia allowed Iraqi aircraft to use its territory to attack Iranian oil fields in the Persian Gulf.

However after the end of the war Iraq's invasion of Kuwait lead to hostile relations between the two countries. So much so that Saddam militarily threatened Saudi Arabia for its support for the Kuwaiti family in exile and also its backing of American forces. Threats from Saddam did turn into action whereby scud missiles were launched against Saudi cities by Saddam's army.

Relations between the two countries continued to subside even more after the end of the Kuwait war due to the fact that the US forces were allowed to be stationed on Saudi soil in order to enforce the no – fly zone over Iraq.

Although Saudi Arabia did not allow any attacks to be launched from its soil for the recent invasion of Iraq, nevertheless the regime in Riyadh was pleased to see end of Saddam's hostile regime. Relations between Riyadh and the new Iraqi administration are amicable.


Although both countries subscribed to Baathist political ideology , were both backed by the USSR and shared their hostility towards Israel, nevertheless since the 1970s Iraq and Syria were at political loggerheads. This is due to the ideological differences regarding the version of Baathism which they followed. As a result Syria backed Iran during Iraq – Iran war. This support was relatively costly for Iraq as it lead to Syria cutting off the Iraqi pipeline which ran through its territory thus reducing Iraq's oil exports. Furthermore on at least one occasion it is reported that Syrian aircraft provided over head cover to attacking Iranian aircraft, whilst on a number of other occasions it is reported that Syria provided valuable intelligence to Iran regarding Iraqi troop movement. Relations deteriorated even further during the Kuwait war as Syria provided forces to the allied coalition fighting against Saddam's invasion forces.

However relations between the two countries started to improve markedly from the late 1990s. This was due to the fact that both counties found themselves isolated by US economic sanctions. As a result trade links were established where according to reports it reached as much as $1 billion USD a year prior to the invasion. It is also reported that Syria provided a safe heaven for Saddam's fleeing family whilst it is also reported that Syrian banks were used by Saddam's loyalist to deposit millions of dollars of money brought out of Iraq.

Since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 the US has openly accused Syria of supporting anti coalition forces. The Iraqi government on a number of occasions has also accused Syria of assisting forces trying to topple it. It is expected that the hostility between the two countries will continue due to the current severity of ideological differences between them.


Iraqi and Turkish relationship is based on the following commonalities:

Trade – Iraq is major destination for Turkish exports. Turkey is also a gateway for the export of Iraqi goods to Europe and also export of oil through pipeline The Kurdish question – both countries are against the establishment of an independent Kurdish country. Therefore both have co-operated on a number of occasions in thwarting Kurdish insurgencies and political campaigns for the creation of an independent Kurdish country.

Turkey played a neutral part in the Iran – Iraq war. Although politically it was more on Iraq's side as it viewed the Iranian regime as a potential threat. However during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait turkey sided against Kuwait. Furthermore after the end of the war turkey provided bases to allied forces on its territory in order to enable them to enforce the no – fly zone. Accusing Saddam's regime of assisting Kurdish insurgents, Turkish forces entered northern Iraqi territory on a number of occasions to attack Kurdish forces based there.

Nevertheless Turkey refused to allow the US to use its territory to launch attacks against Iraq for the 2003 invasion. This was despite promises of much needed loans and grants for the Turkish economy. This decision was due to the fact that Turkey at the time was run by the Pro-Islamic party of Mr Edogan who was unwilling to assist the US for its plans calling for the invasion of a fellow Muslim country.

Since the invasion Turkey has backed the newly Iraqi government's moves towards democracy. Although Ankara has voiced its concern against any political steps by the Iraqi government which may signify independence rights for the Kurdish population of Iraq. This is because Turkey is worried that if Iraqi Kurds have independence, Turkish Kurds will want the same in the future.


Called Iraq's 19th province by Saddam Husein, Kuwait used to be Iraqi territory until the British separated the country and ran its affairs until early 1960s. Since Kuwait's independence relations between Iraq and Kuwait were strong both politically and militarily. Kuwait provided financial and logistical support to Iraq during its war against Iran as they shared a common concern regarding the Iranian regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. In fact Kuwait was one of the one of the biggest financial backers of the Saddam regime during the war against Iran. This angered the Iranian regime so much that Tehran launched Scuds attacks against Kuwait to punish it for its support.

However after the end of war against Iran relations began to deteriorate. This was due to a dispute regarding oil drilling rights on their border. Unexpectedly for many, Saddam launched an invasion and took over Kuwait. Over the next year Saddam's forces killed many Kuwaitis, looted their assets and set fire to Kuwait's oil reserves.

Relations between the two counties never recovered after the invasion for as long as Saddam Hussein was in power. As a result of felt hostility by many Kuwaitis, their country supported US invasion plans by allowing the US to use its territory to attack Iraq in 2003.

Since the removal of Saddam relations between the two countries has improved markedly. Kuwait is one of the donor countries for the re-construction of Iraq and has also been backing Iraqi government's political plans for multi party elections. This is despite the fact that Kuwait itself does not have such a multi party system.


According to the BBC Panorama documentary programme in 1990, according to Saddam God should not have created the following three creatures


This provides a background to Saddam's intense hostility towards Iran. Consequently Sadam's relations with Iran were strained before and after the Iranian revolution. The areas of dispute between the two countries were mainly regarding sovereignty over the important Shat Al Arab waterway which separates the two countries and over Iraq's claims that Iran was discriminating against Arab residents of the Khuzestan region of Iran. Prior to 1975 Iraq claimed full sovereignty over the waterway and charged Iranian ship for services such as providing pilots and also other equipment required for safe navigation in the area. However the Iranian government bitterly complained that none of the money paid to the Iraqis was used for equipment as no improvements had been made over the years. As a result of years of military tension between the two countries Iran under the Shah and Iraq signed the Algiers agreement which gave equal access to both countries in the shat Al Arab waterway. Five years later and one year after the Iranian revolution Saddam tore up the agreement and called it null and void. Subsequently in September 1980 the Iraqi army invaded Iran with the goal of establishing full sovereignty over the shat al Arab and to capture the Arab populated Khuzestan region of Iran to end what Iraq claimed was persecution of the area's citizens by Iran. The war lasted eight years during which millions of Iranians and Iraqis were killed and close to $400 billion USD of damages were caused to the economies of both countries. The war did not achieve Saddam Hussein's goal of capturing and owning the Khuzestan region of Iran nor did it provide total sovereignty over the shat Al Arab waterway. Ayatollah Khomeini's goal of removing Saddam from power and replacing him with an Islamic regime were not realised either. Two years after the end of the war Saddam turned to Iran for help whilst his troops were busy fighting in Kuwait. Based on an agreement between the two countries, Iran promised not to attack Iraq as long as Saddam Hussein returned the remaining Iranian territory still in Iraq's hands after the war. Saddam complied fully to the agreement.

After the Iraq war against Kuwait relations between the two countries remained neutral. However since the year 2000 relations improved as both regimes found that they had the US administration in common as a threat. As a result embassies in both counties were opened for the first time in many years. Iran opposed the US invasion of Iraq however according to unconfirmed reports it provided overfly rights to US aircraft based in Afghanistan who wanted to reach Iraq. Since the end of the war the Iranian government is reported to have provided arms to insurgents fighting US forces as well as military and political assistance to Iraq's Shiite movement , especially Ayatollah Sadr's followers. It is expected that relations between the two countries will improve under the new Iraqi administration. This is based on the logic that the new Iraqi regime will follow good neighbourly policy as means of ensuring political stability and to boost its economic and trade status.

By: Meir Javedanfar