Riyadh aims to counter Tehran’s influence with Iraq ECA credits

(Financial Times, Riyadh, 4 April 2019) Saudi Arabia is intensifying diplomatic efforts to boost ties with Iraq, as the kingdom aims to strengthen its influence on regional rival Iran’s doorstep. The kingdom’s harsh treatment of Shia clerics sparked demonstrations in Iraq, and many Iraqis blamed Saudi Arabia for fuelling hardline Sunni Islamist ideology that gave rise to the Isis extremist group. However, since 2016, Riyadh has taken a more nuanced view of Iraqi politics that aims at chipping away at Iranian influence by denying Tehran the sectarian card. Saudi officials arrived in the Iraqi capital this week, wielding a $1bn grant for a sports stadium. Last year the Saudis pledged a $1bn loan for reconstruction in Iraq, plus $500m in export credit.