By ABDULLAH AL-SHIHRI
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — Saudi Arabia’s King Salman received Iraq’s president in Riyadh on Sunday, a day after the Iraqi official visited the kingdom’s rival, Iran.
Barham Salih’s back-to-back visits to Iran and Saudi Arabia reflect the delicate balance Iraq seeks to maintain in a region where its two powerful neighbors are battling for supremacy.
Iran has had major influence over Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein, and is a key supplier of electricity, gas and goods to Iraqi markets. The two countries on Saturday vowed to expand trade to $20 billion a year, from $8.5 billion in 2018, despite the punishing U.S. sanctions against Iran.
But Saudi Arabia has been steadily courting Iraq in recent years, following a quarter-century estrangement brought about by Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
A flurry of meetings between Saudi officials and the new Iraqi government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi Riyadh in recent weeks suggest the Gulf kingdom is aiming to counter Iran’s economic footprint in Iraq.