By Dr. Sulaiman Wasty for Gulf State Analytics
Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s departure from power on August 14, 2014 has led certain voices to speculate that Iraq will establish closer ties with Saudi Arabia under Maliki’s successor, Haider al-Abadi. Despite Baghdad and Riyadh’s history of distrust, Daesh’s rise to power in Iraq and Syria along with the organization’s destabilizing impact on the region’s geopolitical order are said to create unity between the two neighboring Arab nations.
Indeed, the Maliki government’s treatment of Sunnis and Baghdad’s alignment with Iran largely contributed to Iraq and Saudi Arabia’s toxic relationship following Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003. When Iraq’s President Fuad Masum visited Saudi Arabia on November 11, 2014—marking the highest-level diplomatic exchange in years between the two governments—he went with the purpose of “normalizing diplomatic and political relations.” However, while both states share grave concerns about Daesh’s potential to seize greater swathes of territory, their incompatible strategies for reacting to this threat and other conflicting geopolitical interests in the greater Middle East diminish the potential for a meaningful improvement in relations to materialize in 2015 and beyond.
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