Saudi Arabia and UAE voice support for new Iraqi government

Iraq and the Gulf region have been exploring stronger ties over the years

Mustafa al-Kahdimi, Iraqi Prime Minister-designate speaks to members of the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, May 7, 2020. Iraq's former spy chief was sworn in early Thursday as the prime minister by lawmakers after weeks of tense political negotiations as the country faces a severe economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The parliament approved the government of al-Kahdimi after long wrangling over his proposed Cabinet. (Iraqi Parliament Media Office, via AP)

The UAE and Saudi Arabia said on Friday that they stand with Iraq’s new government headed by Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi.

Mr Al Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief, secured the premiership on Thursday, after two previous candidates failed to gain approval.

He faces an array of challenges, including the balancing of relations between Iran, the US and allies in the region.

Saudi Arabia said it is ready to work with Baghdad’s new government and strengthen their “historic ties” to ensure the region’s security and prevent external interference.

“We express our support and willingness to work with the new Iraqi government on the basis of cooperation, mutual respect, historical ties and common interests on the basis of strengthening our relations,” said a statement by the kingdom’s foreign ministry.

The statement wished success for Mr Al Kadhimi in leading the government and “achieving the aspirations of the Iraqi people regarding their sovereignty, security, and stability."

Ties between Saudi Arabia and Iraq were restored in 2015 after the kingdom reopened its embassy in Baghdad following a 25-year break.

The countries have been at loggerheads since the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

However, during the last few years Riyadh has been wooing Baghdad as part of an effort to stem the growing regional influence of Iran, while Iraq is seeking economic benefits from closer ties with the kingdom.

In October 2017, two months before Iraq declared victory over ISIS, the countries established the Iraqi-Saudi Joint Coordination Council, to help rebuild devastated areas retaken from the militants in Iraq.

The UAE congratulated Mr Al Kadhimi and expressed its “keenness to widen cooperation and widen relations with Iraq across all fronts”, according to a statement by UAE state news agency WAM.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation said he “hopes the new cabinet would lead Iraq to more stability and prosperity as well as ensure the country's national sovereignty, while meeting the expectations of the Iraqi people.”

In recent years the UAE set its sight on strengthening relations with Iraq to offset Iran’s ability to dictate Baghdad’s internal policies.

For years Baghdad has seen itself caught in the crossfire between Washington and Tehran - a role recently exacerbated by US sanctions on Iran.

Tehran’s sway over Baghdad dates back more than a decade, to the aftermath of the US-led invasion, when dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003.