Arab countries seek warmer ties with Iraq
By Alaa Hussain in Baghdad
Saudi Arabia and the UAE have stepped up efforts to improve their relations with Iraq, with both countries recently pledging financial support for initiatives that signal goodwill, experts told Diyaruna.
Following a friendly football match between Iraq and Saudi Arabia on February 28th, Saudi Arabia's King Salman offered to build a football stadium in Baghdad.
The offer, made in a phone call to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi, came on the heels of a friendly match between the two sides, held in the 60,000-seat stadium in Basra Sports City.
The match was the first on Iraqi soil between the two countries in almost four decades, and was largely seen as ushering in an era of reconciliation.
"The stadium that Saudi Arabia is offering to build in Baghdad will be the largest in the country and will be able to accommodate 100,000 people," said Ali al-Atwani, head of media relations at the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sports.
It will be an important contribution to Iraqi sports and infrastructure, he told Diyaruna.
Rebuilding al-Nuri mosque
The UAE meanwhile offered to rebuild Mosul's Grand al-Nuri Mosque and its historic al-Hadbaa minaret, which was destroyed by the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in July 2017, just days before the group's defeat.
According to an Iraqi government statement, the offer was made on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, during a March 11th meeting between UAE ambassador to Iraq Hassan al-Shahi and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abbadi.
Abu Dhabi's crown prince proposed the reconstruction as a gesture of goodwill between the two countries and to support Iraq in its battle against ISIS.
The UAE's initiative is highly significant in light of the "historical and emotional relevance of this monument to the people of Mosul", said Musaab Mohammed Jassim, who heads Ninawa's Archeological Authority.
Such initiatives will pave the way for Iraq's re-engagement with its Arab neighbours, he told Diyaruna.
Curtailing Iranian expansion
Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries are adopting a new strategy aimed at curtailing Iranian expansion into Iraq and the region, said Ali al-Jubouri, who teaches political science at the University of Baghdad.
"New economic opportunities between Iraq and its Arab neighbours can erase all previous grievances and build new friendly relations," he told Diyaruna.
Friendly overtures from Arab countries follow Kuwait's decision to host, on February 12th, an international donor conference, in which Arab countries pledged financial contributions to support Iraq's reconstruction.
The Gulf states together pledged $5 billion in investment, loans and financing for exports.
Kuwait contributed $2 billion in investments and loans, followed by Saudi Arabia with $1.5 billion worth of bank loans and investments, in addition to contributions from other Arab countries.