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Iraq’s caretaker PM lands in Iran to revive Saudi-Iran mediation

Riyadh is seeking to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen; Iraq, bordering both Iran and Saudi Arabia, is often caught in the middle

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, September 12, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, right, and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi during their meeting in Tehran, Iran, September 12, 2021. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

TEHRAN, Iran — Iraq’s caretaker prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi arrived in Iran on Sunday, state TV reported, on a visit aimed at reactivating Baghdad-mediated talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi officially received Al-Kadhimi, who was slated to also meet with other officials in Tehran, according to the report. He was the first foreign leader to visit Iran after Raisi took power in August.

Al-Kadhimi’s office said Saturday he arrived in the Saudi city of Jiddah for an official visit to meet with Saudi officials. It was his second visit to Saudi Arabia since he took the post of prime minister in May 2020.

Iran, the largest Shiite Muslim country in the world, and Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic ties in 2016 after Saudi Arabia executed prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr. Angry Iranians protesting the execution stormed two Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran, fueling years of animosity between the nations.

The Saudi-Iran talks aimed at defusing years-long tensions between the regional foes began quietly in Iraq’s capital in 2021.

Saudi Arabia sought a way to end its disastrous war against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The conflict has spawned one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters and brought bombs from rebel drones and missiles raining down on Saudi airports and oil facilities.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, center right, accompanies Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on his arrival at Riyadh International Airport, Saudi Arabia, March 31, 2021. (Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via AP, File)

Besides Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia support opposite sides in conflicts in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. Iraq borders both Iran and Saudi Arabia and is often caught in the middle of the two nations’ proxy wars.

A fifth and last round of talks was held in Baghdad in April before they were suspended again amid soaring Middle East tensions.

Al-Kadhimi has stressed he wants balanced relations with the two neighbors. Improving relations with Saudi Arabia was a key policy of his administration when he took office.

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