Saudi FM arrives in Baghdad amid escalating tensions with Iran

Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir is in Baghdad today for a first official visit since the fall of Saddam.

Al-Jubeir is scheduled to meet Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi as well as the country’s Kurdish President Fuad Masum.

This is the first official visit by a minister of the Saudi Arabian government to Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraqi-Saudi relations cooled after Saddam, who was a Sunni Muslim, was replaced by a Shiite majority government in Baghdad with Tehran’s influence steadily increasing across Iraq.

Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany earlier this month Adel al-Jubeir said Tehran was the main sponsor of terrorism in the world, a destabilising force in the Middle East and wanted to “destroy us.”

Behram Qasimi, the spokesperson of Iran’s foreign ministry, had responded by saying, “the Saudi foreign minister’s accusation of terrorism funding is a comical claim, none of these will make anyone forget about the Saudi regime’s spiritual, educational and financial relations with the murderous Takfiri terrorists.”

The Saudi foreign minister’s trip comes after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited several Gulf countries earlier in the month.

When outlining the objectives of his trip, Rouhani had said, “Today we must seek unity, we must remove the fake distances between Sunnis and Shiites created by foreign powers. Sunnis and Shiites have lived together for hundreds of years. If there are problems between us, we can solve them through dialogue. Iran always wants to further its relations with regional governments and is working for stability, unity and security in the region.”

US President Donald Trump, who has also sharpened his rhetoric towards Iran since taking office, has been critical of Baghdad for allowing “Iran to rapidly take over more and more of Iraq”.

Soon after taking office Trump warned Middle Eastern leaders of Iran’s activities and threat to the region, and has urged them to collaborate with the United States of America against Tehran.

Spectators of Adel al-Jubeir’s arrival in Baghdad today, which will undoubtedly include Trump, will be curious to find out whether the visit will be a step towards bridging differences between the sectarian divide in the region or further strain an already tense situation.