Islamic State group threat forces Saudi-Iraqi reconciliation

Islamic State group threat forces Saudi-Iraqi reconciliation
The president of Iraq is visiting Saudi Arabia in a bid to improve cooperation in the face of the threat posed by the Islamic State group.
2 min read
10 November, 2014
Masum is visiting Saudi Arabia [Getty]

Iraqi President Fuad Masum is to visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday for the highest-level talks between the two neighbours in years, as relations thaw in the face of the threat from the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as ISIS).

This is the first visit by an Iraqi leader to Riyadh in many years and comes at a time of intense diplomatic, military and intelligence activity in the region.

The visit signals a thaw in the relationship between the two, coinciding with what US President Barrack Obama called "a new phase" in the US-led coalition's fight against IS.

A total of 1,500 US troops arrived in Iraq on Friday, nearly doubling the number already there. Iraqi officials told al-Araby al-Jadeed that they will be located at five bases, two of which are in Anbar province, an area largely controlled by IS.

     Airstrikes by the US-led coalition have been targeting IS positions in Iraq and Syria since August.

Relations between the two countries had reached a low point earlier this year when former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of supporting Sunni "terror groups" in Iraq.

Riyadh retaliated by blaming the growth and successes of the IS on the Maliki government's discrimination against Sunnis in Iraq.

But relations improved recently with Masum's appointment of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to replace Maliki. The presidential visit continues in this direction as the fight against IS gathers momentum.

Saudi Arabia has become an important ally in the war against IS, and its warplanes have participated in the airstrikes against IS in Syria, but not in Iraq.

'New phase'

Obama told CBS' Face the Nation programme on Sunday that US troops would not be engaged in combat operations.

Instead, they will establish four training centres with coalition members, allowing them "to bring in Iraqi recruits", including "some of the Sunni tribes that are still resisting" IS, giving them training and equipment and helping them with strategy and logistics.

Obama said that the first phase in the war on the IS was to establish a more "inclusive and credible" Iraqi government, which was now successfully completed.


Airstrikes by the US-led coalition have been targeting IS positions in Iraq and Syria since August.

On Friday, the strikes targeted a meeting of IS leaders, but reports that IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi - the self-styled "caliph" - had been wounded remain unconfirmed. Brigadier General Saad Maan, spokesman at the Iraqi Interior Ministry told AFP that investigations were ongoing.