Iraq is making steady progress on work to reopen the Arar border crossing with Saudi Arabia, one of the few concrete developments as ties slowly warm between Baghdad and Riyadh. Satellite imagery from the Iraqi side of the crossing, which is 350km southwest from Baghdad, shows extensive work being done on the border compound. Reports suggest the Saudi-funded structure will include a hospital and university in addition to a customs station.

The crossing closed in 1990 when Saudi Arabia severed ties over Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, but in recent years Riyadh has warmed to Baghdad – partly in a belated recognition that rebuffing the Iraqi government might help counter Iran’s stronghold there (MEES, 27 October 2017). The Saudis agreed to reopen the crossing in August 2017 (MEES, 1 September 2017), and the move is expected to facilitate trade and more movement between the two countries. Saudi Arabia also has vague plans to export electricity to Iraq in addition to several other economic initiative (MEES, 3 August 2018), standing in stark contrast with the kingdom’s more heavy-handed approach to Iranian allies elsewhere. (CONTINUED - 176 WORDS)