Iraq has managed to anger Saudi Arabia over a difference of opinion regarding Hezbollah and their actions in the region. Remarks by the Iraqi Foreign Minister about Hezbollah came just weeks after it was recently classified as a terrorist group by the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
On March 11, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said,
“Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units and Lebanon’s Hezbollah preserved the dignity of the Arabs. Those accusing them of terrorism are the terrorists”
during the Arab League meetings in Cairo prompting the Saudi delegation to get up and leave only to return after al-Jaafari finished speaking. Relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia have been tumultuous at best, primarily over the Iranian ties in the Iraq region. In an article published in January, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir stated Iran was
“supporting all radical and violent groups, including Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Houthis in Yemen and sectarian militias in Iraq.”
Iraqi Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmad Jamal told Al-Monitor that Iraq is keen to be part of any Arab consensus to unify positions and, as a member state, is part of the Arab League’s general framework and charter. Jamal said,
“The vote on draft resolutions within the Arab League, and moving toward an Arab consensus, should not take place at the expense of Iraq’s principles. The most important among these is the noninterference in the other countries’ internal affairs. Thus, the decision to label Hezbollah as terrorist, when it is represented in parliament and the government, is interference in Lebanon’s internal affairs, which Iraq rejects. The Iraqi-Saudi ties are fully developed, and Iraq is keen to promote them. Saudi Arabia is an important border country, and ties must necessarily be balanced.”
Iraqi journalist Zaher Mousa told Al-Monitor that Iraq is acting on principle and shouldn’t be expected to do otherwise, he said,
“the criminalization of Hezbollah is a mere reaction to the US-Iranian nuclear deal.”
Anyway, Iraq can’t be expected to preserve balanced positive relations with both Iran and the GCC countries at the same time. This is because Iran has “a great influence there.” Besides, the internal Iraqi dispute over regional and international issues has a negative impact on its foreign ties, particularly with Saudi Arabia. This is due to the division between Iraq’s political sphere and its public regarding Saudi Arabia and to protesters’ demands that the Saudi Embassy not be allowed to reopen in January after 25 years, which reflected poorly on Iraqi diplomacy.
Will Iraq and Saudi Arabia resolve their differences over differing opinions on Hezbollah? Sound off in the comments below!