Political and security trends at the international level are closely related with security in the Middle East. Many experts believe that international security depends heavily on building security in the Middle East. During the recent years, Iraq has become the focal point of security developments in the Middle East; building a sustainable security in the Middle East is almost impossible without improving stability and security in Iraq. This article tries to study the role of international and regional actors in building security in Iraq as well as the existing approaches for dealing with this issue. Establishing peace and security is especially critical for Iran as Iraq's most important neighbor.

Source: Diplomatic Hamshahri, No. 24, May 2008

1- The Priority and Necessity of Establishing Stability and Security in Iraq

Political and security processes at the global level are intertwined with in Security the Middle East therefore, without establishing security in this region, it is impossible to ensure international security. Also, Iraq has become a focal point for regional security in the Middle East region, and establishing sustainable security in the Middle East mainly depends on restoring, stability and security in Iraq.

The importance of establishing peace and security in post – Saddam Iraq and to maintain security in this region and the world as a whole can be studied from different aspects:

First, from sociological point of view, Iraq is a country with a mosaic social structure characterized by various ethnic and factional cleavages with a potential to spread its social tensions, insecurity and instability across the whole region.

Second, Iraq's domestic developments are linked to the interests and perception of many regional actors including Iran, Arab countries and Turkey, and its internal disputes can spilled over to the whole region level.

Third, success or failure in building security in Iraq corresponds to the interests and international prestige of a superpower that is the U.S. For this reason, Iraq's security will have major impact on international politics and security.

Therefore, Iraq's developments because of their regional and international consequences have become very sensitive so that establishing peace and security in this country has become a necessity which must be addressed without any delay. Otherwise, we should expect unpleasant consequences.

2- Influential Actors in Building Security in Iraq

Establishing peace and security in Iraq requires the cooperation and participation of many influential actors at the different domestic, regional and extra-regional levels. At the domestic level, building security in Iraq needs the cooperation, participation and will of different ethnic groups and factions including Shias, Sunnis and Kurds.

Ignoring each of them and not paying enough attention to their interests and views can not lead to sustainable and viable security in Iraq and will face the process of security – building with many obstacles and challenges in the mid – term and long – term. Despite many efforts to integrate different groups into the political process and to transfer rivalries and disputes between the groups from military security sphere to political sphere, the continuation of insecurity in Iraq suggests the complete failure of these efforts as well as the complexity of political interaction and finding solution for its security problems.

As noted above, many regional countries have certain interests and potential role in Iraq, but Iran is the most influential regional actor with wide range of interest including peace and security of that country. During the past decades, Iraq has been always considered a security threat for Iran. An important part of threats posed against Iran originated from the Baathist regime. The collapse of Saddam's regime in Iraq and emergence of a democratically elected government in that country created a new environment.

At present the institutionalization of the present political structure and establishment of peace and security in Iraq is of great importance for the foreign policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Therefore, Iran has always given its political and economic supports to all Iraq has governments that were elected and in charge after the downfall of Baathist regime in that country. Iran has used its deep ties with different Iraqi factions including Shias, Sunnis and Kurds during the past three decades to establish peace in Iraq.

Since the deterioration of security situation in Iraq and the increasing likelihood of the failure of political security process in post – Saddam Iraq can pose much greater security threats against Iran, direct negotiations with the United States at the invitation of Iraqi government for helping the establishment of peace and security in Iraq was accepted by Iranian officials despite hostile reactions between the two countries. Given this, Iran considers negotiations with the U.S. a major opportunity for improving security situation in Iraq and solving its problems. Iran believes that these negotiations, in case of the U.S. good will, can lead to more interaction between the two countries.

On the other hand, the imperatives of international and regional structure and the trend of events in Iraq have made necessary this interaction. The urgency of success in improving security situation in Iraq for the U.S. in the framework of its competition with other great powers and its impact on the U.S international prestige make necessary seeking different solutions and interaction with influential involved actors especially Iran for Washington.

3- Necessities and Imperatives of a New Approach

During the past five decades, the U.S. has adopted different strategies towards Iraq. These strategies based on the U.S. inadequate knowledge and incorrect perceptions of political and social environment in Iraq and in the region, have been mainly erroneous with dangerous consequences for security in Iraq and the Middle East.

One of the main consequences of these strategies is deteriorating human security situation in Iraq resulting in displacing people, their killing and their mass emigration. Another consequence of the U.S. strategies is spreading terrorism and transforming Iraq into a base for forming and training terrorist groups. This phenomenon did not exist before Iraq's occupation and the presence and operations of U.S. forces in Iraq had a direct influence on it.

Spreading instability in the Middle East and the low level of confidence and interaction between people and regional actors are among of the other consequences of these strategies. A more important point is that the U.S. plans have not yet created a situation based on which a clear and stable future for Iraq could be conceived. There exist still many major political security problems and challenges.

Under the present circumstances, although Iraqi crisis has been muted to some extent, the effects of the U.S. erroneous strategies still exist. Importantly, no clear and plausible plan has yet been developed for dealing with current challenges. The U.S. previous approach with its main characteristics and unpleasant consequences for Iraqi people still remains intact.

The major topic of the U.S. approach towards Iraq in the past years has been unilateralism, monopolistic policies and avoiding to get involved other influential regional and extra-regional actors.

Despite some indications suggesting the U.S willingness to use other actors in restoring security in Iraq, the facts show that there is no strong will in U.S. officials to share responsibility with other actors in dealing with security problems in Iraq. This leads to failure. Success in this respect requires adopting a new approach.

Situation in Iraq needs an approach based on attracting the cooperation and participation of other actors and using all available leverages by the U.S. Past experiences show that the U.S. cannot create sustainable security for Iraqis through relying solely on itself and continuing its previous approach. This could even lead to the aggravation of security situation. Indications coming from inside Iraq also suggest the increasing willingness of Iraqi groups to get involved other influential actors in security building process. Therefore, the participation of other regional countries and extra-regional actors such as the EU in establishing security in Iraq can ameliorate the situation in this country.

Iran – U.S. interaction in Iraq could be a part of the new approach. This interaction based on emergency situation in Iraq and Iran's stability – oriented strategy is considered a positive step in itself, but its impact on building security in Iraq requires a different U.S. outlook on the issue. Despite holding three rounds of negotiations between Iran and the U.S. on Iraq, the results have not been conformed to the expectations and the U.S. still stresses its monopolistic approach. The effectiveness of negotiations and improvement in Iraq's security situation requires a cooperative approach which should be adopted by the U.S.

Making various accusations against Iran by the U.S. during the negotiations and the contradictory behavior of U.S. officials portray an ambiguous policy pursued by the U.S. which creates serious doubts about the U.S. willingness in getting involved other influential actors. However, regarding Iran's soft power in its environment and especially in Iraq, there is less doubt. The convergence of this soft power with the U.S. hard power could be effective for establishing peace and security in Iraq. Conversely, the confrontation of these two powers could have negative consequences for Iraq and the region.

European powers and the EU which have strategic security and economic interests in the Middle East region could be influential in realizing the abovementioned scenario. Given the close relations between European countries and the U.S, Europeans should prevent the emergence of confrontational and monopolistic ideas among some U.S. politicians and on the other hand, they should take necessary measures for retrieving Iran's confidence damaged by EU policies towards Iran's nuclear program.