Iraq–Saudi Arabia relations

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Iraq – Saudi Arabia relations
Map indicating locations of Iraq and Saudi Arabia


Saudi Arabia

Iraq–Saudi Arabia relations are the relations between the Republic of Iraq and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which remain poor.


Saudi relations with Iraq were tense early on, due to raids by Ibn Saud's Ikhwan warriors into Iraq. A second source of tension came from the defeat of the Sharifian regime in the Hijaz whose heirs, Faysal and Abdullah became the rulers of Iraq and Transjordan. Then much later, the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy was replaced by régimes in Baghdad which had disputes with Kuwait and ideological differences with the Saudi royal family. Throughout the 1960s and into the early 1970s, Riyadh has suspected Baghdad of supporting political movements hostile to Saudi interests, not only in the Arabian Peninsula but also in other Middle Eastern countries. Saudi–Iraqi ties consequently were strained; the kingdom tried to contain the spread of Iraqi radicalisation by strengthening its relations with states such as Iran, Kuwait, Syria and the United States, all of which shared its distrust of Baghdad.

Beginning in late 1974, however, Iraq began to moderate its foreign policies, a change that significantly lessened tensions between Riyadh and Baghdad. It began at the Rabat Arab summit on October 1974, where Jordan invited Iraq to listen to proposals for how it could resolve differences with Iran, Egypt, and the Saudis. Iraq agreed.[1] Iraq responded with a "charm offensive" that resulted in better relations:

"High-level Iraqi officials, including Vice President Saddam Hussein and President Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, visited the Kingdom, and ranking Saudis, like Crown Prince Fahd, paid return visits to Baghdad. Iraq ended propaganda efforts critical of the Saudi rulers and suspended cover activities in the Kingdom. In June 1975 the two states settled outstanding border issues, agreeing to divide equally the diamond shaped 'neutral zone' carved out by the British in the 1920s."[1]

Saudi Arabia's diplomatic relations with Iraq were relatively cordial by the time the Iranian Revolution climaxed in 1979.

The Saudis and Iraqis felt threatened by the Iranians' announcements that they would export Islamic revolution, and this shared fear fostered an unprecedented degree of cooperation between both countries. Although Riyadh declared its neutrality at the outset of the Iran–Iraq War in 1980, it helped Baghdad in non-military ways. For example, during the eight year conflict, Saudi Arabia provided Iraq with an estimated US $25 billion in low-interest loans and grants, reserved for Iraqi customers part of its production from oil fields in the Iraq–Saudi Arabian Neutral Zone, and also assisted with the construction of an oil pipeline to transport Iraqi oil across its territory. Despite its considerable financial investments in creating a political alliance with Iraq, Saddam Hussein continued to press claims against Kuwait.

In August 1990, only two years after Baghdad and Tehran had agreed to cease hostilities, Iraqi forces invaded and occupied Kuwait. Saudi Arabia took action against Iraq claiming Iraq's actions posed a serious threat to its security and requested the United States to bring troops into the kingdom to help confront Iraq. Riyadh's fears concerning Baghdad's ultimate intentions prompted Saudi Arabia to become involved directly in the war against Iraq during January and February 1991. Although the United States was the principal military power in the coalition of the forces that opposed Iraq, the kingdoms air bases served as main staging areas for aerial strikes against Iraqi targets, and personnel of the Saudi armed forces who participated in both the bombing assaults and the ground offensive. Iraq responded by firing several Scud-B missiles at Riyadh and other Saudi towns. This conflict marked the first time since its invasion of Yemen in 1934, that Saudi Arabia had fought against another Arab state.

Saudi leaders were relieved when Iraq was defeated, but they recognised that relations with Baghdad had been damaged.

Consequently, postwar Saudi policy focused on ways to contain potential Iraqi threats to the kingdom and the region. One elements of Riyadh's containment policy included support for Iraqi opposition forces that advocated the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's government. In the past, backing for such groups had been discreet, but in early 1992 the Saudi's invited several Iraqi opposition leaders to Riyadh to attend a well-publicised conference. To further demonstrate Saudi dissatisfaction with the regime in Baghdad, Crown Prince Abdallah permitted the media to videotape his meeting with some of the opponents of Saddam Hussein.

The Saudi leadership opposed the U.S. plan to invade Iraq, and did not join the Coalition. Their fears and warnings that Iraq would fracture along sectarian and political lines proved accurate.

In 2009, Iraq named its first post-Gulf War ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Ghanim Al-Jumaily. In January 2012 Iraqi foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari stated that Saudi Arabia had named its first ambassador to Iraq since 1990.[2] Fahd Abdul Mohsen Al-Zaid, the Kingdom's ambassador to Jordan, would serve as non-resident ambassador flying regularly from Amman to Baghdad.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b F. Gregory Gause, III (2009-11-19). The International Relations of the Persian Gulf. Cambridge University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9781107469167. Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  2. ^ Saudi Arabia names new envoy to Iraq as Baghdad seeks inclusive Arab League summit The Washington Post 21 February 2012
  3. ^ Kingdom appoints ambassador to Iraq Arab News