Iraq Asks Saudi Arabia to Replace Its Ambassador to Baghdad

The Iraqi government officially asked Saudi Arabia to replace its first ambassador to Baghdad in more than a quarter of a century, accusing him of fabricating a story about an attempt on his life.

“We did our best to facilitate the reopening of the Saudi embassy in Iraq to improve bilateral relations,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal said Sunday by phone. He accused envoy Thamer al-Sabhan of making “many improper media statements” that Iraq considered “blatant intervention” in its affairs.”

The Saudi Foreign Ministry in Riyadh didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Al-Sabhan stirred up controversy with biting comments about Iran, including the alleged assassination attempt by a militia linked to the Islamic Republic. On Sunday, Al Arabiya television quoted him as saying, “May God help Iraqis for being neighbor to a state that is aggressive to its neighbors.” 

Kuwait Invasion

Sunni-led Saudi Arabia reopened its Baghdad embassy in December 2015, having cut ties following Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait. Jamal alleged that al-Sabhan used his presence in Iraq to fan Saudi antipathy toward its Shiite-dominated chief foe, Iran. Such statements, he said, incite “sectarian feelings” inside Iraq, which has seen years of Sunni-Shiite strife.

Jamal also denied the envoy’s claim last week of an assassination plot. “Al-Sabhan didn’t inform us as a ministry, or the government or the security ministries about an assassination attempt” allegedly carried out by a Shiite militia, the spokesman said. “He instead opted to talk to the media about it.”

The Iraqi government asked al-Sabhan to present evidence to back up his claim. He didn’t and the “media fabrication” is an offense to the government’s ability to protect diplomatic missions, Jamal said.