Saudi Arabia engages Iraq to Iran’s Dismay

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

Pictures displaying Iran’s Quds Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani during the battles with the Islamic State stopped circulating online with the military phase that ended in the liberation of Mosul. The Iranian presence and support for the Iraqi forces were absent in the liberation battles.

Simultaneously, Iraqi officials visited Saudi Arabia and Arab Sunni states that cheer for the Saudi axis. Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr visited the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Aug. 13-15, with clerics and politicians welcoming him as an Iraqi leader.

Prominent Sunni Iraqi cleric Ahmed al-Kubaisi and leading politicians met with Sadr during his visit to the UAE. This was only a few days after his visit at the end of July to Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other officials had welcomed him.

In the wake of the visit, Saudi Arabia took various measures in favor of Iraq, such as announcing the opening of a Saudi Consulate in Najaf, where Sadr lives. Iraq’s most senior Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, did not object to this proposition, as in the past he had called for openness in relations.

For its part, Iran strongly criticized Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Tasnim website, which is close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, considered the visit a betrayal of the Yemeni people who have been fighting the Saudis for more than a year. Tasnim also accused Saudi Arabia of taking advantage of the Sadrist movement and seeking influence gateways in Iraq.

Sadr’s upcoming visit to Egypt was also announced, in addition to a series of visits by prominent Iraqi officials including the prime minister and the ministers of interior, foreign affairs, oil and transportation to Saudi Arabia. Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional enemy, did not receive such high-level visits.

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