Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets with Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, July 2017.
Bandar Algaloud / REUTERS

Some of the best news to come from the Middle East in a long time is the recent and long-overdue improvement in relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. It started in February, when Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad—the first such visit since 1990—and continued with a number of subsequent contacts, including a meeting between Iraqi Interior Minister Qasim al-Araji and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) on July 19. Most striking of all was when Iraq’s Shiite firebrand cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, traveled to Riyadh for high level talks on improving bilateral ties with the Saudis on July 31.

As an Iraqi leader, Sadr has typically taken a hard nationalist—and sometimes even Shiite chauvinist—line. And although his relationship with Tehran is complicated owing to his independent power base and occasional appeal to a sense of Iraqi patriotism, he has been a critical Iranian ally for most

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