Iraqi- Saudi ties, its impact on Iraqi return to Arab world

D. AbdelNasser al-Mahdawy
New Iraq Centre Advisor
The alienation of Iraq away from its Arab deepness is one of the most prominent repercussions of the US occupation to Iraq in 2003 and the delivery of Iraq on a silver plate to Iran after the US withdrawal by the end of 2011. Since the US withdrawal, Iraq has been submitting the rule of a system where Iran controls it’s political & security affairs. In fact, the matter of the Iranian domination in the Iraqi scenes is undeniable and this doesn’t negate the role of the US as well. The US toppled the former regime, destructed the infrastructure of Iraq and delivered it to the innovative chaos without rearranging the scenes until today although the US sustained funds, efforts and thousands of souls due to its occupation to Iraq. Meanwhile, we can clearly see exchange of services between the US and Iran especially during the tenure of President Barack Obama who gave much to the Iranian regime on the account of the Iraqi and US interests.
However, the US foreign policy witnessed a big shift after the republicans reached to the rule. Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, he began to oppose the policy of former President Obama towards Iran and he began his tenure with keeping the promises he made during his electoral campaign which were relevant to Iran. He commenced that fulfilment with exiting the nuclear deal, then the economic sanctions and finally labelling the Revolutionary Guard terroristic in a step deemed as the last nail in the coffin of the Iranian regime if the US doesn’t have another escalation steps like leading a military process or restricting the Iranian role in all Middle East states like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. In this regard, If we consider the Revolutionary Guard domination on 20% of the Iraqi economy while the Iranian companies dominates other grand parts of Iraqi economy, it means that the Iraqi economy is really and directly threaten in case any confrontation breaks out between the US and Iran.
From this point, the idea of reinforcing the ties between Iraq and its Arab neighbourhood emerged as a lifesaver for Iraqis. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) is considered a real representative for this Arab arena due to its religious and economic stature and its vital role in deepening the ties among Arab states. regardless the disputes among the Gulf states which is deemed as a mere dispute between brothers, reinforcing relations with Arab states like Jordan, Arab Gulf states and other north of Africa states will play a role in uprooting Iraq from the US and Iranian control and domination and will empower it economically after most of Iraqi officials gave priority to the Iranian interests on account of Iraqi ones.
The beginning was a formal visit of a high level delegation from KSA to Iraq including seven ministers and dozens of ministries’ and private companies’ representatives on 3/4/2019. The delegation that included the Saudi Trade and Investment Minister, Culture minister, environment and agricultural minister, education minister, mineral wealth minister and information minister was received in Baghdad Airport by Iraqi ministers and top officials. Actually it was the biggest Saudi delegation that has visited Iraq during last years and it included grand companies planning for investment in Iraq.
Effectively the Iraqi government reacted to this huge delegation and was received by the Iraqi Prime Minister who underlined that the Iraqi government was insisted on reinforcing the relation between both states and that their ties represented a cornerstone for the relations in the region. He also expressed about the Iraqi intention and willingness to expand its relations in its Arab and regional arena.
For his part, the Saudi delegation head expressed about his delight with visiting Iraq and with establishing the coordinating council in Baghdad, such council represents the real willingness to deepen the ties between both sides.
The visit succeeded in hitting more than aspired results especially because the suggested projects included building King Salman Sports city, activating Arar territorial access that links KSA with Iraq, linking the gulf electricity system with Iraq, increasing the commercial exchange between both states from one billion to four billions a year until reaching ten billions in the coming years, opening the Saudi universities for more than 2000 Iraqi fellowships, opening the way for Iraqis to visit Saudi Arabia, establishing model farms in the western dessert that employ 50,000 of Iraqi labour, establishing investment projects by Iraqi hands and Saudi funds that will employ 210,000 of Iraqi labour, establishing four Saudi consulates in Baghdad, Najaf, Basra and Alnasseriya and increasing the Iraqi allotment of the pilgrimage.
Promptly came the response of Iraqi government to such important visit. The Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi visited KSA on 17/4/2019 in a huge delegation included 11 ministers, 68 officials and 70 businessman. During the visit, both sides tackled the bilateral ties and latest international and regional developments. More important, Iraq’s Adel Abdulmahdi and King of Saudi Arabia Salman Bin Abdul Aziz witnessed signing number of agreements and memorandums of understanding.
According to the Saudi News Agency, both sides signed agreements and memorandums of understanding(MOI) included political consultations, agreement of investment encouragement, MOI In the agricultural field, MOI in the oil field, MOI in the electrical power field, MOI organising the goods transportation on the land route, MOI between education ministries of both states and memorandum of cooperation in the cultural and artistic fields.
Indeed, the history of the Iraqi-Saudi ties is long and deep. It witnessed a break up after the second Gulf war then was resumed in 2015 after 25 years of break up due to the Iraqi invasion to Kuwait in 1990. After years of tension, the relations began to improve in 2017 when the Saudi Foreign Minister visited Baghdad, which paved the way for mutual visits. In June 2017, the Iraqi Prime Minister visited Baghdad and both sides agreed to establish a coordination council to raise the ties between both states to the strategic level. This coordination council is deemed as the cornerstone of ties between both states and this will reinforce the Iraqi return to its regional relations, which will help in getting rid of the Iranian control on the political and security arenas.

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