The meeting between Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi is a welcome attempt at looking to reconcile the major rivals—Saudi Arabia and Iran—in the region. Prime Minister al-Kadhemi carried out this visit to Tehran on the back of a meeting with Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman in Jeddah, which indicates that the two might be close to engaging in backdoor consultations for less acrimony in diplomatic ties going forward.
However, this is easier said than done. Iran and Saudi Arabia’s rivalry extends to the many conflict zones in the Middle East, not least among them Yemen and Syria. This is one of the major blockers to any semblance of peace in the region. But beyond this, the question of Israel, especially after the 2020 Abraham Accords, which led to the UAE, Jordan, and Bahrain recognising Israel, will also be a source of concern for Iran going forward. Tehran, much like Islamabad, has dismissed the possibility of recognising Israel, and Saudi Arabia’s key role in making the accords possible has not pleased Iran.
It is positive to see Iraq looking to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia; we have tried to do the same on occasion in the past. But the gap that needs to be bridged remains significant. More cooperation and an end to hostilities in the Muslim bloc could have transformational effects on the development of all stakeholders. This is something that Pakistan should also actively strive for. Islamabad has been a responsible actor from the beginning in the Muslim bloc; the stance to remain neutral in the Yemen conflict is a perfect example.
But the time has now come to be more proactive and look to use our positive relations in the Muslim bloc for good. The government should join the Iraqi leadership in looking to find common ground between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as peace between the two would be of immense benefit to all.