The picture of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr summarizes the rapprochement between Riyadh and Baghdad and the pace of positive progress of relations between the two countries, in which the two parties appear to prefer a policy of diplomacy, dialogue and communication over one of mistrust, divergence and disagreement.
Sadr's visit was preceded by the participation of Iraqi President Fuad Masum at the Arab Islamic American Summit in May, 2017, followed by an official visit by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi two months later. During the same month, King Salman bin Abdulaziz made a phone call with Prime Minister Abadi congratulating him on the victory of Iraqi forces over ISIS followed by a visit by Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji to Saudi Arabia, where he met Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He who follows this timeline, in less than one year, would guess that there is a serious intention from both parties intended to resolve the pending issues between Riyadh and Baghdad, and promote points of understanding between them.
The relationship with the popular Muqtada al-Sadr, in addition to his familial and emotional connection with wide segments of the Iraqi and Gulf people, was built over the years and not just recently. A “contact officer” has been coordinating the relations and connections between Saudi Arabia and the “Sadrist movement" as Riyadh believes in the importance of openness to all sectors of the Iraqi people and the need to strengthen the Arabism of Iraq, and linking it to the Gulf region.
A Saudi-Iraqi relations based on understanding, dialogue and respect for the sovereignty of the two countries will create a regional safety net and strengthen efforts to fight terrorism and fundamentalism.
Many sectarianists and beneficiaries of war would deny any Saud-Iraqi rapprochement, claiming that it is a waste of time, while ignoring the fact that putting out the flames of war and easing the tension is a necessary and urgent interest, not just a choice, a luxury or a point of view.Hassan Al Mustafa
There are wars in more than one country surrounding Saudi Arabia and Iraq. There are sectarian militias and sectarian media, which have affected both Riyadh and Baghdad badly, and negatively affected the relationship not only between the two countries but also all the countries of the region and poisoned the public atmosphere among people with prejudice and hatred speeches. It is in the interest of the two countries to cooperate in order to confront this sectarianism which fills the satellite channels, websites, mosques and worship places, so as not to suffer damage, and then become difficult to uproot them from the minds and souls later on.
Many sectarianists and beneficiaries of war would deny any Saud-Iraqi rapprochement, claiming that it is a waste of time, while ignoring the fact that putting out the flames of war and easing the tension is a necessary and urgent interest, not just a choice, a luxury or a point of view.
It is the fate of Iraq and Saudi Arabia, with what they have of historical, economical, and political weight and presence inside all Muslims, to do their best to reach a real and strong understandings. The matter will require a lot of time, patience, wisdom and sacrifice. But it would be the way out for the region of what it is experiencing of confusion and terrorism.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Hassan AlMustafa is Saudi journalist with interest in middle east and Gulf politics. His writing focuses on social media, Arab youth affairs and Middle Eastern societal matters. His twitter handle is @halmustafa.