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Iraqi PM Kadhimi with Iranian President Raisi. Photo: Presidency of Iran via Getty

Officials from Iran and Saudi Arabia met this week in Baghdad for a fourth round of talks this year, following a months-long hiatus after the election of Iran's new president.

Why it matters: The meetings in Iraq constitute the first serious attempt at dialogue between the two regional rivals following years of tensions and rhetorical venom.

  • Iraqi sources say the agenda is dominated by efforts to repair the bilateral relationship and by regional issues concerning both sides.

Flashback: Saudi Arabia cut off relations with Iran in January 2016. The move came after Iranian protesters stormed Saudi diplomatic facilities over Riyadh’s execution of dissident Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr.

  • The relationship deteriorated further following the election of Donald Trump, who openly sided with the Saudi leadership in its long-standing confrontation with Iran.
  • Given the administration's animosity towards Iran, Riyadh not only felt no need to talk to Tehran, but was arguably even disincentivized to do so.

Between the lines: The Iran-Saudi dialogue coincides with President Biden’s arrival into office and his attempt to pivot attention away from the region.

  • That has been interpreted by many observers as a sign that Arab partners of the U.S. will be more prone to engage Iran if Washington isn't unconditionally backing the regional status quo.

How it happened: The Iran-Saudi dialogue is an outcome of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s personal efforts to promote a more integrated region and turn his country into a bridge rather than a battleground for competing foreign powers.

  • Kadhimi hosted a summit in late June with the leaders of Egypt and Jordan, at which the three countries agreed to deepen economic and security ties.
  • In August, Kadhimi gathered a wider array of leaders from key states such as Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

What’s next: After the event, an Iraqi political source close to Kadhimi revealed to Amwaj.media that the Baghdad Conference was never envisioned as a one-off.

  • “The participants are mulling the idea of making this an annual gathering — each time in a different capital," the source said.
  • At a recent follow-up meeting of the Baghdad Conference, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, all sides —including Iran and Saudi Arabia — agreed that the next session will be held in Jordan.

What to watch: Iraq is set to hold parliamentary elections on Oct. 10, and while Kadhimi is not on the ballot, he is seeking domestic, regional and international backing for a second term.

  • The outcome could have bearing on the future of the regional dialogue, given Kadhimi's role in promoting it.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 25, 2021 - World

Saudi dissident claims MBS said he could get "poison ring" to kill king

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attending the Saudi Green Initiative Forum, via video link, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on Saturday. Photo: Royal Court of Saudi Arabia/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A former senior Saudi intelligence official who worked with the U.S. on counterterrorism alleged to "60 Minutes" in an interview broadcast Sunday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed in 2014 killing the kingdom's then-monarch.

Why it matters: The claim by the exiled Saad al-Jabri, whom Saudi authorities describe as "a discredited former government official," that the crown prince, known as "MBS," allegedly said he could obtain a "ring from Russia" to carry out the attack, is one of several serious but unproven allegations he made on the CBS show.

Updated 43 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden lays out $1.75 trillion "framework" before Europe departure

President Biden in Kearny, N.J., on Oct. 25. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

President Biden announced Thursday a "framework" for $1.75 trillion in social program and climate change spending after failing in prior efforts to win over his fellow Democrats on a much broader and costlier package.

Why it matters: Biden is gambling that by proclaiming the broad contours of the proposal, which he immediately began selling in a meeting with House Democrats before jetting off to Europe, progressives will vote for his $1.2 trillion infrastructure plan if and when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi brings it to the floor.

Economy slows in third quarter amid Delta variant

Data: FRED; Chart: Axios Visuals

The U.S. economy increased at an annual rate of 2% in the third quarter, the Department of Commerce said Thursday.

Driving the news: The gross domestic product figures for July through September come in much lower than the 6.7% increase in the second quarter, reflecting the "continued economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic," according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis at the Department of Commerce.