By Ali Mamouri, for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
In June, Saudi Arabia announced that it would reopen its embassy in Baghdad after a 25-year rift. Iraqi officials, including President Fuad Masum, had visited Riyadh on Nov. 12, 2014, paving the way for friendlier relations. Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Thamer al-Sabhan said Dec. 16 that the embassy had completed its preparations and that the diplomatic mission would soon head to Baghdad.
But Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2 stirred anger on the Iraqi street and led to demands that the Saudi Embassy not be allowed to officially reopen. Iraqi perceptions about Saudi Arabia are generally negative, with the country seen as a troublemaker and a supporter of Sunni jihadis. The Saudi Embassy is in Baghdad’s Green Zone, which houses most governmental offices and foreign embassies; Saudi Arabia also has a consulate in Erbil.
The closure demands came from Shiite parties and militias, among other social forces and figures. The head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, called on Jan. 2 for demonstrations in front of the Saudi Embassy. He also demanded that the government prevent “the opening of the Saudi Embassy in our beloved Iraq,” saying, “Tyrants have no room among us.”
The Dawa Party parliamentary bloc demanded on Jan. 1 that the Saudi Embassy be closed before it fully reopens and that Saudi detainees in Iraq who have been convicted of terrorist acts be executed in response to the Saudi execution of Nimr.