Saudis Trying to Influence Iraq’s Political Landscape

Saudis Trying to Influence Iraq’s Political Landscape Saudis Trying to Influence Iraq’s Political Landscape

Saudi Arabia's rapprochement with Iraq in the run-up to its parliamentary elections appears to take place in the context of a new policy designed to expand its sphere of influence in the oil-exporting country, says a former diplomat.  
"The change of approach is not a strategic U-turn but rather is Riyadh's tactic to achieve its objectives by expanding its influence in Iraq's political arena," Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, who served as Iran's first ambassador to Baghdad after the fall of former dictator Saddam Hussein, told the Iranian Diplomacy website in an interview.  
The May 12 ballot will decide Iraq's leader for the next four years, when the government will face the monumental task of rebuilding entire cities and towns after decades of wars, internal strife and the massive harm inflicted by the self-styled Islamic State terrorist group. 
  Warmer Ties 
In the months leading to the election, Saudi Arabia has been wooing Baghdad, and there have been indications of improved relations between the two countries, which have been at loggerheads for decades, starting with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. According to the Economist, Saudi Arabia is putting the finishing touches on a consulate in Basra, Iraq's richest city; air links between Saudi Arabia and Iraq have resumed after a 27-year halt and several state-owned Saudi businesses are registering offices in Baghdad.
In addition, at a recent conference in Kuwait, the kingdom pledged $1 billion in loans and $500 million in export credit to support Iraq's reconstruction after the war with IS, also known as Daesh. The kingdom has also promised to build Iraq a football stadium in an effort to build social bridges between the two nations.


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