Iraq PM seeks to soothe security concern on Saudi visit

The Iraqi prime minister, Mustafa al-kadhemi, said that the country would not become a stepping stone to launch violent attacks on Saudi Arabia. During a long-awaited visit to the kingdom, he made this remark aimed at establishing closer economic and security ties.

Last January, explosive-laden drones rocked Riyadh’s main royal palace, with American media citing US officials saying they were launched from neighboring Iraq.

Saudi authorities did not publicly give any details on the reported attack on the sprawling Al-Yamama complex, the official residence and office of King Salman, and the royal court’s main base.

 

But the news raised the alarm in a country that has constantly suffered missile and drone attacks from Iran-aligned Huthi rebels in Yemen, where Riyadh-backed forces are engaged in a six-year conflict.

An unknown militant group in Iraq, Righteous Promise Brigade, claimed responsibility for the strike. Still, it was considered by security experts to be a front for more entrenched Iran-backed militias.

 

According to Kadhemi, the group’s claim was “not true” and insisted that the attack was not launched from Iraq.

 

“We will not allow any attack on the kingdom,” he told reporters after what his aides described as an hours-long meeting with Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

 

Because the Iraqi PM has established close personal ties with Prince Mohammed, he walks a diplomatic tightrope as Baghdad often finds itself caught in the tug of war between Tehran and its rivals Riyadh and Washington.

Kadhemi’s trip comes after the countries reopened their Air and land border crossing in November for the first time since Riyadh cut off diplomatic ties with Baghdad in 1990, following Iraqi ex-dictator Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait.

 

Apart from talks on border security, Kadhemi said that he sought to further foster trade and economic cooperation with the kingdom during a day-long visit to Riyadh with his delegation of senior ministers.

Saudi state media published that the two countries agreed to establish a joint fund with an estimated capital of $3 billion, a “contribution from the kingdom” to boost investment in the Iraqi economy.

 

Saudi Arabia’s Iraq investments are expected to rise to 10 billion riyals ($2.67 billion) from just over 2 billion riyals currently, the state-run SPA news agency said.

The joint statement further said both countries also agreed to maintain energy cooperation to maintain global oil markets stability.

 

It should be noted that Iraq is the second-largest producer in the OPEC oil cartel, outranked only by Saudi Arabia.

 

The Iraqi premier, whose government has sought to fast-track foreign investment, including the kingdom’s support for energy and agriculture, pushes for deeper cooperation with Riyadh.

Kadhemi was scheduled to travel to Saudi Arabia on his first foreign trip as prime minister last July. Still, the visit was canceled at the last minute when King Salman was hospitalized for surgery to remove his gall bladder.

His trip to Tehran, Riyadh’s arch-rival, went ahead, with the premier meeting Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

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