Saudi Arabia to Reopen Baghdad Embassy

Saudi Arabia to Reopen Baghdad EmbassySaudi Arabia to Reopen Baghdad Embassy

Saudi Arabia announced on Sunday that it was sending a delegation to Iraq ahead of opening an embassy in Baghdad where its last mission closed nearly 25 years ago.

The kingdom also plans to open a general consulate in Arbil in Iraq’s Kurdistan region. Both projects could help recover ties with Iraq “after an absence since the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime and the penetration of the Iranian regime into the joints of the Iraqi state,” Abdullah al-Askar, head of the foreign affairs committee of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council.

“A technical committee from the foreign ministry will leave for the Iraqi capital Baghdad this week to coordinate with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry on the necessary arrangements for selecting and making ready the appropriate buildings for both missions, in preparation for them to start work in the Republic of Iraq at the earliest opportunity,” the official SPA news agency cited a Saudi foreign ministry spokesman as saying, Reuters reported.

Diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq were severed in 1990 but restored in 2004 after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime. However, Riyadh had not yet reopened its embassy in Baghdad.

Last November, Iraqi President Fuad Masum visited Saudi Arabia for the first such high-level trip in years in a sign of warming relations after years of strain between the two countries.

Fayyad Al-Oraifi, a political analyst, said, "The Saudi decision to open diplomatic missions comes after Iraq responded positively to the gestures of the Saudi leadership." He stressed that Riyadh now needs to resolve “technical, administrative and security” issues before it can re-establish the mission and assign an ambassador.

Mustafa Al Ani, an Iraqi security analyst with close ties to the Saudi government, said the thawing relations was prompted by both the change in Iraqi leadership and the threat from the Islamic State (IS) militant group, which staged a lightning advance across Iraq in June and is the target of US-led air strikes in both Iraq and Syria.

King Concerns

The thawing of relations between the longtime rivals comes amid concern over the health of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah. According to reports, the king was suffering from pneumonia and needed a temporary breathing tube.

The Saudi Government released a statement this week confirming King Abdullah’s ill health while claiming he was in stable condition. No information has been released regarding Abdullah’s prognosis or release date.

Abdullah turned 90 in August, and has battled a long list of health problems. He was most recently diagnosed with a lung infection, and was admitted to the hospital last week.