x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

After 10 years, Iraq legacy is still felt in Gulf

The repercussions of the invasion of Iraq are most keenly felt in the Arabian Gulf region. They will be felt for many years to come.

Ten long years after the invasion of Iraq, and the consequences of the war are still with us in the Gulf.

Few have been positive. The deposing of a violent dictator like Saddam Hussein was good for people and for nations. For people, it rid them of an unstable figure whose regime would often commit violent acts against individuals without just cause. There are, and remain, strong links between Iraq and the Gulf region and even at a distance, the impact of the regime would be felt on family and friends. As Hadeel Al Sayegh remembers on the facing page, Saddam's tentacles of fear reached even to the heart of safe cities like Abu Dhabi. After he was deposed, Iraqis who had fled the Saddam regime could now hope that they might return to a peaceful Iraq.

Gulf countries, too, could take some comfort from Saddam's end, if not in the invasion that brought it about. Iraq had already invaded its neighbour Kuwait and Saddam Hussein harboured ill-will towards the rest of the Gulf, seeing in Saudi Arabia a rival regional power. With Saddam gone, the region could look forward to a more peaceful period of development, without the threat of an aggressive neighbour.

But the negatives are legion. The powder-keg unleased by the destruction of Iraq embroil this region, up to the present day. Most tragically, the sectarian conflict that gripped Iraq has rippled across the Arab world. At the same time, the demise of the Saddam regime empowered Iran, which has increased its presence in the Shia parts of Iraq and tried to extend its influence even into Gulf countries.

It is perhaps the human stories that are of most relevance, a decade on. The exodus of people from Iraq under Saddam was followed by another wave, an incredible exodus of talented, educated Iraqis. Many ended up in the Gulf, building careers and raising families in the safe atmosphere of the UAE and other neighbouring countries. The economy of the Gulf has benefited from this influx of talent, but the brain drain took a large toll on Iraq itself.

The legacy of the Iraq invasion and occupation on the Gulf is a long story that has yet to unfold. As a region, we were on the frontline of the threat from Saddam's Iraq. Today, it is in our region that the repercussions of that invasion are most keenly felt - and will be felt for many years yet.