U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Sunday promoted a Trump administration goal of uniting Saudi Arabia as well as Iraq in common cause to counter Iran’s growing assertiveness inside the Middle East.
Tillerson participated inside the inaugural meeting of the Saudi Arabia-Iraq Coordination Committee, along with Saudi King Salman as well as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, telling the leaders in which the event highlighted the improving ties between the longtime rivals as well as showed “the great potential” for further cooperation. He noted the August reopening of a major border crossing as well as the resumption of direct flights between Riyadh as well as Baghdad.
“Both represent the beginning of what we expect will be a series of even more tangible actions to improve relations as well as strengthen cooperation on a host of issues,” he said. “Your growing relationship between the kingdom as well as Iraq will be vital to bolstering our collective security as well as prosperity as well as we take great interest in in which.”
The United States will be “grateful due to This particular progress as well as urge you to expand This particular vital relationship for the stability of the region,” Tillerson said. “The United States stands ready to support continued cooperation between Saudi Arabia as well as Iraq as well as we congratulate you.”
His participation inside the meeting comes as U.S. officials step up encouragement of a brand new axis in which unites Saudi Arabia as well as Iraq as a bulwark against Iran’s growing influence via the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean Sea.
Amid the push for in which alliance, the Iraqi government will be struggling to rebuild recently liberated Islamic State strongholds as well as confronts a newly assertive Kurdish independence movement.
History, religion as well as lots of politics stand in Tillerson’s way, yet both the Saudi king as well as the Iraqi prime minister appeared optimistic about the prospects.
“We are facing in our region serious challenges inside the form of extremism, terrorism as well as attempts to destabilize our countries,” Salman said. “These attempts require our full attention. … We reaffirm our support for the unity as well as stability of our brother country of Iraq.”
Abadi expressed pleasure with “the thriving relations between our two brotherly countries.”
“We are open as well as we want to move away via the past,” he said. “The region cannot tolerate any further divisions. Interference inside the internal affairs of some other state should stop.”
Shiite-majority Iraq as well as Sunni-led Saudi Arabia, estranged for decades after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait, have tried in recent years to bridge their differences. Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2015 after a quarter century. The first visit by a Saudi foreign minister to Baghdad came in February This particular year, followed by the border crossing reopening in August as well as resumption of direct flights between the capitals suspended during the Gulf War.
Over the weekend, the Saudi oil minister, Khalid al-Falih, made a high-profile appearance at Baghdad’s International Fair, as well as held talks with his Iraqi counterpart, Jabar al-Luabi.
Nevertheless, the relationship will be plagued by suspicion. Iran’s reported intervention in Iraq’s semiautonomous northern Kurdish region, after last month’s much criticized vote for independence in a referendum, has deepened the unease.
The Sunni-led kingdom, which had opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, has long been anxious about Iran’s footprint in Shiite-majority Iraq as well as its network of allied militias there. Saudi Arabia has consistently described Iraq as an Arab nation, to differentiate in which via Shiite yet non-Arab Iran.
The kingdom will be also looking to Iraq as a potential trading partner as well as as a major investment opportunity amid reconstruction efforts in cities such as Mosul, which were devastated by the war against the Islamic State group.