Saudis in talks over alliance to rebuild Iraq and ‘return it to the Arab fold’

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Iraq and Saudi Arabia are negotiating a new alliance that would give Riyadh a leading role in rebuilding Iraq’s war-torn towns and cities, while bolstering Baghdad’s credentials across the region.

Meetings between senior officials on both sides over the past six months have focused on shepherding Iraq away from its powerful neighbour and Saudi Arabia’s long-time rival, Iran, whose influence over Iraqi affairs has grown sharply since the 2003 ousting of Saddam Hussein. Iraq and Saudi Arabia have long been considered opponents in the region, but a visit by the Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr to Riyadh last week and a follow-up trip to the UAE further thawed relations which had already been much improved by high-profile visits between the two countries.

The arrival in the Saudi capital of Sadr – a protagonist in the sectarian war that ravaged Iraq from 2004-08 and who has enduring ties to Iran – highlights a new level of engagement which could see Riyadh play a significant role in the reconstruction of the predominantly Sunni cities of Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi and Tikrit.(theguardian)…[+]

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