Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia reopened the Arar border crossing with Iraq, for the first time in 27 years. The move marks a significant turning point in the two nations’ relationship, and points to Saudi efforts to try to set up an alliance with the Iraqis.
Iraq would be a strange ally for Saudi Arabia, as the Sunni kingdom keeps its distance from most Shi’ite-dominated states. From the Saudi perspective, the main goal appears to be to split Iraq from its main ally, Iran, who the Saudis consider their primary regional rival.
Selling Iraq on the deal is liable to be tricky as well, with the ruling State of Law Party dominated by Iranian-backed militia leaders. Still, Saudi Arabia has money, and can buy a lot of influence with offers to help Iraq with its costly reconstruction from the ISIS War.
They may also have an interested partner in Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. A highly influential cleric, Sadr has tended toward a more nationalistic view of Iraqi politics, and an aversion to being too directly dominated by Iran’s religious leadership. This could easily open up a circumstance where he would cooperate with Iraq’s Sunni opposition in forming a coalition leaning more toward the Saudis than the Iranians.
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