Expectations mixed as Iraq, Saudi announce security deal
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Expectations mixed as Iraq, Saudi announce security deal

The agreement was reached during a visit of Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi to Saudi Arabia, Al-Arabiya television cited Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammad Ali al-Hakim as saying. Abdul-Mahdi’s office announced that the prime minister signed “13 agreements in areas such as trade, energy, and political cooperation” during his meetings with Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Abdul-Mahdi’s visit to the Arab kingdom came right after his first trip to Tehran, where he held talks with senior Iranian officials. The new round of Saudi-Iraqi cooperation comes as the premier has said Iraq would maintain strong ties with Iran, but also with the United States and regional neighbors. Iraq and Saudi Arabia had historically been at loggerheads since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 but have recently undertaken a diplomatic push to improve ties. Reconciliation between the two countries began in 2015, when Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad on April 4, after 25 years. Earlier this month, the Saudis reopened a consulate in Baghdad which had been closed for 30 years. King Salman also announced his country would provide Iraq $1 billion to build sport facilities. The warming relations come as Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has time and again underlined the need for amicable ties between all countries in the region. Back in January, Zarif told a gathering of representatives from hundreds of Iranian and Iraqi companies in Baghdad that if regional countries wanted a strong region, they had to substitute dialog for war as well as cooperation for an arms race.  “In a secure and powerful region, dialog takes the place of war, and cooperation replaces arms race while brotherly relations replace trust in foreigners,” Iran's top diplomat said. Zarif noted that in a strong region, all countries can trust one another and make a better future for themselves, adding, “In this case, bilateral and multilateral relations among countries in this region would be stronger than their relations with other countries.” Iraq’s mediation between Iran, Saudi Meanwhile, there are reports that Iraqi officials have been trying to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia in recent months. Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh recently noted that Iraqi officials were doing their best to reduce tensions between Tehran and Riyadh. He told Tasnim news agency that “the Iraqi government knows if tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are not resolved in the near future, a crisis may spill over to Iraq.” The senior lawmaker said Iraq is in its transition period and knows how important security is to the country. “That’s why the resolution of tensions between Iran and the Arab states has turned into a strategy in Iraq today.”

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