"The US withdrawal from Iraq will no doubt create a power vacuum," said Abdulaziz Sager, chairman of the Gulf Research Centre, noting that the US presence in the region empowered Gulf Arab countries with "whom they share interests and are bound by security agreements."
"This (US) presence gave them (Gulf countries) a sense of stability and security due to America's military capabilities," said Sager, adding that the troop withdrawal will "strengthen Iran's military and intelligence influence," in Iraq.
After nine years in Iraq, the US will withdraw its last remaining troops by the end of 2011, a year that so far has seen unprecedented uprisings in the Arab world that have unseated three entrenched dictators in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, but also fuelled the sectarian and religious divide in the region.
Gulf Arab countries are primarily concerned about what Iran might do in what is today a Shiite-led Iraq, as well as their intentions in the broader region, including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain where Sunni regimes have harshly quelled Shiite dissent in recent months.
According to Sager, Iran's increased clout may not pose a "direct threat to Iraq" but will rather be used by the Shiite nation to challenge its rivals in the primarily Sunni Gulf, and to compensate for the potential loss of its ally Syria which is experiencing a mass uprising.
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