Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi is today visiting Saudi Arabia to meet King Salman and his son Crown Prince Muhammad to discuss bilateral relations and regional tensions.
Such tensions have heightened recently between Saudi Arabia and arch rival Iran over the attacks on two major Saudi oil facilities which halved the country’s oil outputs.
Despite Yemen’s Houthis claiming responsibility for the attacks, both the US and Saudi have blamed Iran, which has consistently denied the accusations.
Iraq enjoys good relations with its neighbours; Saudi Arabia to the south and Iran to the east. Diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Baghdad were resumed in 2015 when Saudi sent an ambassador to Iraq and reopened its embassy the following year. This restoration of relations was the first such step in 25 years after ties were severed when then President Saddam Hussein invaded neighbouring Kuwait in 1990.
In an effort to steer Iraq away from Iranian influence, Riyadh opened a consulate in Baghdad in April 2019 and pledged $1.5 billion in loans. The Arar border crossing between the two countries is set to reopen next month after nearly three decades of closure.
However, Iran is still a major stakeholder in Iraq’s affairs, having invested heavily in the country and is Iraq’s main energy provider. Iranian-backed paramilitaries who aided Iraq in its fight against Daesh also have a presence in Iraq’s parliament.
It may explain why Iraq chose not to partake in a US-led Gulf maritime mission aimed at protecting oil tankers in the Gulf, a move which was negatively received by Tehran which saw it as a “clear threat” to Iran’s national security.