Saudi Arabia’s message of cooperation to all Iraqis

Saudi Arabia’s message of cooperation to all Iraqis

The visit of Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Abdulaziz Al-Shammari to Karbala on May 13 was no ordinary visit. (Screenshot)
The visit of Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Abdulaziz Al-Shammari to Karbala on May 13 was no ordinary visit. (Screenshot)
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The visit of Saudi Ambassador to Iraq Abdulaziz Al-Shammari to Karbala on May 13 was no ordinary visit. It was considered a significant and historic event.
The visit of the Saudi ambassador to the shrine of Hussein bin Ali, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad, was the highlight. The shrine is a significant pilgrimage destination for millions of Shiites, including Saudi citizens.
The visit of the Saudi ambassador to a city revered by Shiites marks an important milestone. By visiting the shrine of Imam Hussein and expressing admiration for its beauty, the ambassador sent a strong message of Saudi Arabia’s inclusivity toward all Iraqi communities, regardless of their sect or cultural background. This visit demonstrates that the Kingdom remains impartial and does not favor any particular sect.
Iraqi sources expressed their support for the visit, stating that it reflected a shared desire between Riyadh and Baghdad to enhance cooperation and strengthen official and popular relations. The same sources also indicated that the majority of Iraqis received news of the visit with great joy.
The religious authority in Najaf, which has great influence on millions of Shiite Muslims in Iraq and beyond, also endorsed the visit of Al-Shammari. A reliable source informed me that “the religious authority knew about the visit in advance and gave the green light to the officials at the Al-Husseiniya shrine to arrange the ambassador’s arrival and reception in the best way possible.” The source added: “The religious authority believes that Iraq should have strong relations with the Kingdom because it is in the interest of both peoples and the entire region.”
Al-Shammari’s visit to Karbala was part of the Kingdom’s religious diplomacy, which aims to foster respectful relationships between moderate parties. The visit also conveyed Riyadh’s appreciation for religious diversity, its endorsement of communication between different groups, and its opposition to any extremist sectarian rhetoric that creates problems among Muslims.

The visit of the Saudi ambassador to Karbala marks an important milestone. 

Hassan Al-Mustafa

This visit was preceded on April 26 by the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority announcing a plan for direct flights from Dammam in the east of the Kingdom to the Iraqi city of Najaf, where the headquarters of the “Hawza” (a seminary where Shiite Muslim clerics are trained) and the shrine of Caliph Ali bin Abi Taleb are located. Najaf holds a unique position due to its cultural, religious and historical significance.
The intention to operate direct flights via Saudi carriers from Dammam to Najaf comes within the context of strengthening popular relations. It could also boost future trade exchanges.
The first direct Saudi flight to Najaf will be on June 1. Most likely, Al-Shammari will be there to welcome it, which means that the ambassador will visit Najaf. If Al-Shammari were to visit Najaf, it would be a trip to the holiest city in Iraq for Shiite Muslims and would show that he is welcome by the religious authority there. This gesture goes beyond Al-Shammari individually and sends a positive message from the religious authority to the government of Saudi Arabia.
It is also possible that Al-Shammari will meet with Sheikh Ishaq Al-Fayyad in Najaf. Al-Fayyad holds a prominent position among Hawza scholars and is considered the second most influential religious authority in Iraq after Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. If this meeting takes place, it would send a strong message about cooperation between moderate forces that seek to promote the values of civil peace and mutual respect among Muslims.
Of course, the extremists in both sects will not be happy with such meetings. However, they are part of a Saudi strategy, not just a temporary stance. This strategy aims to combat violent sectarian rhetoric and increase cooperation with all Iraqis. Riyadh considers this to be in the interests of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and the Gulf.

  • Hassan Al-Mustafa is a Saudi writer and researcher interested in Islamic movements, the development of religious discourse and the relationship between the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Iran. X: @Halmustafa
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