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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Iraqi Leaders Try to Garner Support

DAVOS, Switzerland -- Iraq's leaders are facing an acid test on security in coming weeks as the Iraqi and U.S. military launch their new program to clear neighborhoods of militants and death squads district by district.

But to Iraq's government, the real key to long-term success is its neighbors: Will they begin to give it their genuine support, and will Iran and Syria be persuaded or pressured to end the conduct that Iraq believes is giving oxygen to insurgents, militias and death squads inside Iraq?

These were among the themes expressed by a number of Iraqi leaders and foreign policy experts circulating at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, this week. Among them were Iraqi Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari and Adnan Pachachi, a former foreign minister and Sunni elder statesman who is now in the parliament.

All were painfully aware that patience for the war is ebbing among Americans and that they must move quickly to solidify authority and stamp out violence.

One initiative now being pushed by the Iraqi leadership is to convene in Baghdad a regional meeting of foreign ministers from Iraq's neighbors, including the Arab Gulf countries, Syria, Turkey and Iran.

They see it sending a signal that the region is behind the government and recognizes that it needs to be strengthened because there is no good alternative to holding Iraq together as a pluralistic, integrated and democratic country, Zebari said.

"We are building a strong case that if you care [and] if you want to help the people of Iraq, the elected, legitimate Iraqi government, you should show some tangible support," said Zebari. "It will send a good signal to ... ease this tension, this violence, and it will send a message to the insurgents, the terrorists, who will see that Iraq is managing to deal with its neighbors constructively" and that the region is "unified to help this country recover," he said.

With a series of high-casualty bombings in Baghdad in the past few days, Zebari said the country had been suffering through an offensive by Sunni insurgents before the new Iraqi security offensive gets under way. Forming a regional consensus behind the Iraqi government has become more difficult as fighting inside Iraq has become more sectarian.

Sunni countries like Saudi Arabia and Egypt have displayed a hesitant attitude toward Iraq. The death-squad killings of Sunnis, attacks against Arab embassies and diplomats in Iraq and the hanging of Saddam Hussein have strained the government's image in the Sunni world.

If Arab states remain standoffish, it could have the consequence of driving Iraq closer to Iran, the leaders here warned, on and off the record. That is why they consider it essential that the Arab neighbors of Iraq engage the government directly, and not yield to the temptation to deal specifically with Sunni groups within Iraq.