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These politicians and officials do not shy away from acknowledging their alignment with Iran, a frustrating reality for Iraq’s Western allies who toppled Saddam and the Sunni neighbors who harbor legitimate concerns regarding Iran’s expansionist ambitions.
One particular example is enlightening: Saudi Arabia executed Shi’a cleric Nimr Alnimr whom authorities accused of terrorism.
While the official Iraqi pleas to pardon the cleric were unsuccessful, the reactions to the execution across the Shi’a world were too loud to ignore.
The legacy of decisions taken during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will dominate future federal budgets for decades to come.
Many analysts have attempted to explain the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s outreach to post-2003 Iraq as a desire for Riyadh to have its say in Baghdad’s politics and to counter Iran’s influence.
Since 2001, the US has expanded the quality, quantity, availability and eligibility of benefits for military personnel and veterans.
This has led to unprecedented growth in the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense budgets.
One overlooked motivation central to Saudi Arabia’s new approach is its own domestic policy: countering potential Iranian infiltration in the Kingdom’s Shi’a-dominated Eastern Province.
Strengthening ties with Iraq’s national religious authorities (marji’yat) signals a rapprochement with the entire Shi’a sect.
Ironically, Saudi Arabia’s relationship with its own Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) neighbors resembles to an extent Iran’s regional foreign policy—one that is aimed at creating satellite states that function under its mandate.
In June 2017, Iraq’s Interior Minister Qassim Al Araji paid a visit to Saudi Arabia to “forge high level cooperation on security and other vital matters for both states.” Al Araji met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and several security officials. State Secretary Rex Tillerson directly sponsored the rapprochement, and Saudi Arabia appeared willing and cooperative.