April 14, 2010
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Kurdistan-Saudi ties - By Baqi Barzani

President Jalal Talabani’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia on last Sunday was chiefly aimed at placating the Saud royal family about baseless allegations that the Saudi government was meddling into the Iraqi politics, one-sidedly favoring the pro-Sunni Premier Iyad Allawi.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said last Thursday Iraq's efforts to build diplomatic ties with Saudi Arabia had not been reciprocated and more would be "useless" without a change of heart from Riyadh. He also lashed out at other neighboring countries while, snubbing to cite Iran’s most pernicious role in Iraq. In response, Saudi officials censured the dire security situation in Iraq for not being able to resume full diplomatic ties, paused after Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Border security concerns and sympathy for Arab Sunnis have strained mutual ties between Baghdad and Riyadh and pro-Iranian Al-Maliki’s rhetoric has not been effective in repairing the formerly tensed relations.

Despite repudiation, Saudi has not remained indifferent to the burgeoning menace posed by the Iranian-backed Shiites in Iraq. Saudi officials have long been skeptical of the government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. They consider it a largely pro-Shiite entity that only seeks the interests of Shiite Muslims, totally marginalizing Sunni minorities. Saudi Arabia which is a predominantly Wahabbi society has always been concerned about Iranian sectarian expansion in Arab states. The 2003 invasion of Iraq shifted the balance of power and drastically increased struggle for sectarian hegemony.

The idiosyncratic invitation to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Saudi extended to Jalal Talabani, Massood Barzani, the Kurdish Regional Government president and his coupled delegation bodes well. It was certainly a much-anticipated historical opportunity for the Kurdish nation. It is also suggestive of recognition and appreciation of the decisive role played by the Sunni Kurds in post-Saddam Iraqi politics.

Both Kurdish Iraqi president and the Kurdish Regional Government president were invited and held separate talks with senior Saudi officials.

Kurdish-Saudi diplomatic, political and economics channels should be established discretely from Baghdad and bilateral cooperation needs to further be increased between Riyadh and Kurdish Regional Government. Saudis needs to be enticed to open up more consulates and institutions in Kurdistan. Given Saudis peerless global role in the Arab and Islamic worlds, its possession of the world's largest reserves of oil, and its strategic location, bolstering ties with the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula bears huge significance for Kurdistan. Saudi Arabia is an important political, religious, business, and sectarian ally for the Kurds and its huge philanthropist contribution in the campaign against global terrorism and reconstruction of Iraq deserves special praise.


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