Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi’s latest March 31 visit to Riyadh was a continuation of a November 2020 meeting, which he held via video conference with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and in which a number of agreements were achieved. Among the most important of these is the reopening of the Arar border crossing for the first time in 30 years.
This was a vital project that would have attracted billions of dollars in investment in its first year had it not been for the COVID-19 pandemic and Iranian interference.
At that time, Iran began to try to influence Saudi-Iraqi projects and all areas of cooperation that would have affected its overwhelming presence on the political scene in Iraq.
Among the areas of cooperation is the agreement to cultivate 4 million hectares in four Iraqi governorates, and turn them into fields and farms for raising cattle, which would result in profitable financial returns, and provide hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for unemployed Iraqis, who are an essential source of recruitment to militias loyal to Iran.
Al-Kadhimi explained that Saudi Arabia has similar agricultural investments in Canada, Argentina and Brazil, with a land deduction rate ranging from 50 percent to 80 percent in some provinces.
Since 2003, the Kingdom has been trying to return Iraq to the Arab group. The Saudis signed with successive Iraqi governments more than 35 agreements, but they did not abide by them, and we do not want for the agreements with Al-Kadhimi to have the same fate.
Dr. Bader bin Saud
Iran claimed that such an investment would deplete the groundwater storage in the Iraqi lands, even after diverting the course of the Sirwan and Little Zab rivers from Iraqi lands into Iranian lands, dropping the water levels in these rivers from 47 cubic meters to 2 cubic meters and affecting a million Iraqi citizens.
The Kingdom signed five new agreements with Al-Kadhimi in various fields, and the establishment of a Saudi-Iraqi fund was agreed on with an amount reached billions, and on the electrical connection and the prevention of double taxation; also a proposal was made to increase the border crossings to cover the needs of the areas adjacent to the Saudi-Iraqi border to a length of about 900 km.
Since 2003, the Kingdom has been trying to return Iraq to the Arab group. The Saudis signed more than 35 agreements with successive Iraqi governments, but they did not abide by them, and we do not want for the agreements with Al-Kadhimi to have the same fate, especially as he is an unelected prime minister who does not represent a party and will leave after five months; after his government, another might be sworn in that could be backed by neighboring Iran.
Al-Kadhimi rejects the axes policy, and wants to make moves that are not subjected to Iranian dictates as much as possible, in a way that serves the interests of Iraq and Iraqis. He is perhaps the best among all of his predecessors, even if he is the least powerful.
He is a patriotic man and is accepted in the Gulf states, the US and Europe, and he and others like him need great international and regional support, in order not to repeat the scenario of Adel Abdul-Mahdi’s government that signed an agreement with China worth $400 billion, under which oil and gas are exchanged by rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure.
Though a relationship with China is useful, it does not match the importance of the partnership with traditional allies. This is a policy that Iran is following in the current period to confront the US sanctions.
• Dr. Bader bin Saud is a weekly columnist in both Al Riyadh and Okaz newspapers.