Iraq, its Neighbors, and the Obama Administration: Syrian and Saudi Perspectives
Since 2004, USIP's "Iraq and its Neighbors" initiative has sponsored track II dialogues and ongoing research on relations between Iraq and its six immediate neighbors. As part of this work, the Institute—in partnership with the Stimson Center—sponsored a bipartisan, independent, and unofficial Study Mission to Syria and Saudi Arabia in mid-January 2009. The delegation met with a wide variety of leading political figures, businesspeople, NGOs and foreign policy experts in both countries, including President Bashar Assad of Syria and Prince Turki al-Faysal of Saudi Arabia. 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. This working paper represents the initial findings of the Study Mission.