Sadrist Movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia is more significant than Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s due to al-Sadr’s large Shiite constituency, Middle East Institute (MEI) revealed on Monday.
The think tank also said that Sadr is a fierce opponent of former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is viewed by the Saudis as Iran’s point person in Baghdad.
It is election season in Iraq, and Saudi Arabia is sending a clear message about the leaders with whom it wants to engage in Iraq, MEI noted.
After many years of refusing to engage with Iraqi Shiite political leaders, Riyadh has stepped up its outreach. The Iraqi prime minister and minister of interior have already been welcomed in Riyadh, and now Sadr has paid a visit.
According to MEI, both Riyadh and Baghdad seek this rapprochement for specific reasons. Saudi Arabia wants to contain the Iranian influence in Iraq while some Iraqi Shiite leaders want to chart a foreign policy that reclaims a leading role for Iraq in Arab politics.
The think tank further stated that stability in Iraq will be achieved mainly by reconciliation among the different Iraqi societal and political components. Breaking Iraq’s isolation from its Arab neighborhood will encourage these reconciliation dynamics.
It also weakens the regional sectarian narrative that casts Iraq in an Iran-led Shiite political axis. Political overtures must be followed by action. Saudi financial assistance to rebuild areas liberated from ISIS will cement the Saudi-Iraqi rapprochement, it added.