By John Lee.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to re-open the Arar [Ar’ar] border crossing with Iraq for the first time since 1990.

Sohaib al-Rawi, the governor of Anbar province, is quoted as saying that the Iraqi government had deployed troops to protect the desert route leading to Arar and called its opening a “significant move” to boost ties.

The border was closed after the two countries cut ties following Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

(Sources: Al Jazeera, Reuters, Rudaw)

Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji (pictured) has said that Saudi Prince Mohammad bin-Salman has “officially asked Iraq to act as a mediator between Tehran and Riyadh to reduce tensions.”

According to a news agency report, Al-Araji made the remarks at a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart Abdolreza Rahmani-Fazli in Tehran.

Referring to his recent visit to Saudi Arabia and meeting with the Saudi prince, Al-Araji said:

Mohammad bin-Salman requested me officially for Iraq’s mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia to reduce tensions. Before, Malik Salman had made such a request too. I told them that they should treat Iranian pilgrims with respect and the best possible way and allow them to visit Al-Baqi’ cemetery.

“The Saudi party gave some promises with this regard, and now Iranian pilgrims can visit the cemetery. We believe that relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia can held establishing security in the region”.

(Source: GardaWorld)

(Picture credit: Mohsen Ahmed Alkhafaji)

Reuters reports that a former Iraqi oil minister said it was necessary for Iraq to regain the Iraqi Pipeline in Saudi Arabia (IPSA), which has not carried Iraqi crude since Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, and which was confiscated by Saudi Arabia in 2001 as compensation for debts owed by Baghdad.

Bahr Al Olum, who is currently a member of parliament, said he has discussed the issue with Saudi side expected that Riyadh would have a more “positive response” given an improved political environment between the two countries.

(Source: Reuters)

(Picture: Haider Al-Abadi meets King of Saudi Arabia, Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, 19th June 2017)

By John Lee.

Mr Jon Wilks CMG (pictured) has been appointed Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the Republic of Iraq in succession to Mr Frank Baker OBE.

Mr Wilks, who currently serves as Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Muscat, will take up his appointment in November 2017.

He has previously served in diplomatic roles in Baghdad, in addition to Syria, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

(Source: UK FCO)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq’s prime minister has rejected Saudi and UAE media claims that a $500m ransom was paid by Qatar to Shia Muslim armed groups in Iraq to secure the release of 26 kidnapped Qatari hunters.

Haider al-Abadi said that money was received by the Iraqi government but the sum was still in the Iraqi central bank.

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher reports:

By John Lee.

AINA reports that a large convoy of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) has been seen moving towards the Iraqi-Saudi border.

This comes following increasing tensions between Saudi Arabia and Qatar; the Iraqi government has expressed support for Qatar in its conflict with Saudi Arabia.

(Source: AINA)

Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi received the Saudi Arabian Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, Khalid bin Abdul Aziz al-Faleh, and his accompanying delegation in his office on Monday.

During the meeting, they discussed boosting cooperation in the oil sector, industry, petrochemicals, electricity, minerals, trade and banks, as well as reviewed cooperation to support OPEC oil prices.

His Excellency Prime minister Dr. Haider Al-Abadi stressed the importance of expanding bilateral steady cooperation for the benefit of the two countries which would lead the region to a comprehensive development beneficial for all.

The Minister of Energy Khalid Al-Falih conveyed the greetings of the Saudi King and the officials in the Kingdom , their blessing for the achievement of Iraq’s victories, pointing out that to the importance of Iraq’s role in the region and the strenuous steps taken in all fields.

The Minister of Energy Khalid Al-Falih expressed the readiness of the Saudi companies to cooperate and invest in Iraq and Saudi’s market desire to obtain Iraqi products.

(Source: Media office of the Prime Minister)

By Omar Sattar for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

After the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun on April 4, followed by the US airstrike on a Syrian air base April 7, tension between Iraq and the United States escalated significantly.

The United States has made it very clear to Iraq that it wants its ally in fighting terrorism to distance itself from Iran. During Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit to the United States last month, Abadi and US President Donald Trump discussed Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which indicates that the United States is seeking to bring Baghdad and Riyadh closer and to curb the Iranian role in the region. The visit sparked much controversy in Iraq among Shiite parties.

Moreover, Trump explicitly criticized the Iran nuclear deal in front of Abadi. A few days later, Trump sent his senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner to Iraq to discuss US support to Iraq in the fight against the Islamic State. The visit was read as a sign that the “Trump administration sees Iraq as a place to push back on the growing power of Iran across the region.”

Al-Monitor learned from a source close to the prime minister who asked to not be named that limiting Iran’s role in Iraq was at the top of the list of the issues discussed between the two parties.

The National Iraqi Alliance said it was not aware of the details and meeting schedule of Abadi with the American administration. Other Shiite political parties expressed discontent with the visit, especially following the statement of Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi security and political expert, in Asharq al-Awsat newspaper. Hashimi said he received information from the Iraqi delegation to Washington that “the American discussed with Abadi the danger of ‘believers in the velayat-e faqih [a jab at Iranians] and the need to keep them out of the PMU.”

By Hamdi Malik for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said recently that any group taking up arms in Iraq outside the state’s official framework will be considered outlaws. However, it seems at least some of the factions fighting under the banner of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Iraq would not obey Abadi’s order.

On March 22, Abadi spoke at a meeting of the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS (Islamic State, or IS) in Washington. Also during his trip, he told the media that IS will be eliminated from Iraq’s cities “within weeks.”

What will happen then? Hashim al-Musawi, the spokesman for Iran-controlled, Shiite Iraq militia known as the Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq (al-Nojaba), announced earlier in the month the formation of the Golan Liberation Brigade. But the announcement appeared to be more a declaration that Iran-affiliated Iraqi militias will be ready to take on a greater role in the region once IS is gone. (In addition, Musawi threatened to take military action against Turkish forces stationed near Mosul if they refuse to leave Iraq.)

The brigade announcement carried great symbolism, as the press conference was held in the office of the Iranian news agency Tasnim, which supports the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Tehran.

Musawi also criticized the United States and Saudi Arabia, stressing that al-Nojaba “will not drop its weapons as long as the region is still threatened.” Al-Nojaba will continue its endeavor to reclaim the Golan Heights in Syria from Israel, he added.

Three days after this announcement, a leader of al-Nojaba had something to say on the subject. The militia’s secretary-general, Sheikh Akram al-Kaabi, said March 11, “The Golan Liberation Brigade’s formation is not propaganda, but one of the Islamic resistance’s true objectives.” He added, “The resistance is capable of beating the ‘axis of evil’ and the Zionist entity,” referring to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States.

This isn’t the first time Iran-affiliated Iraqi parties have talked about taking action outside Iraq, in line with Iran’s foreign policy in the region.

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

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir made an unannounced visit Feb. 25 to Baghdad, seeking to re-establish long-severed ties with Iraq, perhaps with an eye toward the Saudi role in the region once the Islamic State (IS) is defeated.

This visit is the first by a top Saudi official since 1990, when then-Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal came to Baghdad along with King Fahd to attend the Arab summit. Saudi Arabia did send its ambassador, Thamer al-Sabhan, to Iraq for the first time in June 2015 after 25 years of severed diplomatic relations. Sabhan, however, left Baghdad last year at the request of the Iraqi government and no replacement was appointed.

Jubeir said his country will appoint a new ambassador to Iraq soon and is looking forward to forming economic ties on different levels with Iraq.

“Saudi Arabia is looking to build special relations with Iraq, and there is a desire to work together in the war on terror,” Jubeir said during a press conference with his Iraqi counterpart, Ibrahim al-Jaafari.

The pertinent question, however, is what took so long? What made Saudi Arabia wait all these years since Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003 to seek special relations and cooperation with Iraq in the war on terror?

Why did the kingdom not take a similar stance when Iraq was most in need of help from neighboring countries when jihadi groups were spreading in the country between 2005 and 2007, and when IS took control of one-third of Iraqi territories and Baghdad was on the verge of falling in 2014?

Saudi Arabia might be thinking of arrangements for the post-IS period and is seeking to extend its influence in Iraq to find a balance with the broad Iranian influence.