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Is Saudi Arabia really willing to normalize ties with Iraq?

Despite some progress in Saudi-Iraqi ties, further improvement is hindered by Iranian influence in Iraq and Baghdad's inability to control Shiite militias.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir attends the opening of a meeting of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State group at the State Department in Washington, DC, on March 22, 2017.
Ministers from the 68-nation US-led coalition fighting the Islamic State group are meeting in Washington Wednesday to hear more about US President Donald Trump's plan to destroy the jihadists' remaining strongholds in Iraq and Syria. / AFP PHOTO / NICHOLAS KAMM        (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)

Saudi and Iraqi diplomats agreed at a March 12 meeting in Riyadh to stop exchanging aggressive remarks and to establish a coordination council to discuss outstanding issues and promote bilateral relations. That same day, an Iraqi delegation led by Iraqi Deputy Foreign Minister Nizar al-Khairallah discussed cooperating on economics, security and tourism with Saudi diplomats. Riyadh, however, remains reluctant to move further toward normalizing relations due to concerns over Iran's influence in Iraq and the Iraqi government's inability to exert full control over Shiite militias.

Abdul Bari Zebari, the head of the Iraqi parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, told Al-Monitor earlier this month that Iraqi officials at all levels, including the president, prime minister and parliament speaker, had expressed their willingness to build good relations with Saudi Arabia during multiple visits to Riyadh since 2003. He added that they had sensed the Saudis' hesitation to work on improving ties, but that they had their reasons.

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