Saudi envoy: policies on Iraq will not change

Saudi “will not abandon Iraq’s Arab identity,” said Sabhan, highlighting Riyadh’s desire to keep proximity to Baghdad

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Riyadh’s polices on Baghdad “will not change,” Saudi Ambassador for Iraq told Al Arabiya News Channel on Sunday after Iraq asked the kingdom to change its envoy in its capital.

“Saudi policies [towards Iraq] will remain unchanged and are not tied to individuals,” Thamer al-Sabhan said, in reference to Iraqi request to replace him. “[Saudi Arabia] will not abandon Iraq’s Arab identity,” highlighting Riyadh’s desire to keep proximity to Baghdad amid Iran trying to wield its influence.

“Iraqis are suffering from pressures and particular agendas which impose its policies on the country,” he said without mentioning Iran.

He said these “pressures” are “imposed” via “military advisors from other countries on Iraqis.”

Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps-Qods Force – the external operations wing of the Revolutionary Guards –leading the now government-supervised mainly Shiite and anti-ISIS Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), has been seen in Iraq with numerous pictures taken of him.

“God be with Iraqis for having a neighboring a country harboring animosity,” Sabhan added.

Iraqi Shiite politicians have made persistent requests that Sabhan be expelled in reaction to comments he made about Iran’s involvement in Iraq and claims that Iranian-backed Shiite militias were exacerbating tensions with Sunnis.

Sabhan has also expressed alarm over a plot to assassinate him in Iraq. Recently, Aws al-Khafaji, head of the Iraqi militia group Abu al-Fadhl al-abbas, which is currently part of PMF, said Sabhan is a “wanted person” and it is an “honor for everyone if he was assassinated.”

“We have a very amicable relationship with Iraqi politicians that the media does not capture,” Sabhan said.

Sabhan, whose credentials were received in January 2016, became the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq in a quarter century, after relations were cut following ex-president Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.