What Prompts Saudi FM to Make Landmark Visit to Iraq

Sabah Zanganeh, a senior Middle East expert, has discussed the reasons behind Saudi foreign minister’s surprise visit to Iraq.

 

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir’s visit to Iraq has raised eyebrows as it was the first visit of a high-ranking Saudi official to Baghdad in 14 years.

In a Farsi interview with Jame Jam newspaper, Sabah Zanganeh, a former Iranian envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and a senior analyst in West Asia affairs, has talked about the motivation behind the visit.

Here are excerpts from his remarks:

As regards the motive for such a long delay in efforts to establish mutual relations and the reason why the visit came at this juncture, two points should be taken into consideration. The first reason is that Iraq is gaining power on the political front, has liberated east Mosul, is beginning to retake western Mosul, and has been cracking down on ISIS terrorists and their allies in key Nineveh province.

The second reason is that the Iraqi army may have taken hostage some ISIS militants possibly with Saudi nationality. Therefore, the motive behind the trip could have been to establish relations with a powerful Iraq and to get information on possible ISIS hostages.

Of course, the two countries are divided on numerous issues, including on Popular Mobilization Forces. Riyadh has been seeking to undermine and restrict the popular troops, but their positive role has been proven in the liberation of Mosul as well as in the Ramadi operation in the past. And now, upon approval by the Iraqi Parliament, they are seen as a military unit and part of the country’s defence and security apparatus.

Some key developments associated with the trip are as follows: saving the political elements of ISIS in parts of Mosul, holding consultations on the fate of individuals who have fled Iraq to Turkey and seek to return to Mosul once the city is freed, and making a more precise assessment of the presence of Turkish troops in Mosul. These make up Saudi officials’ short-term and long-term objectives. It is hoped that Iraqi statesmen will take national interests into account while interacting with Saudis.

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