Saudis make surprise trip to Iraq: Why now?

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.

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