As the Middle East continues to be in turmoil, recent news about a China brokered Saudi-Iran deal has taken the world by surprise, despite the fact that negotiations between both sides have been going on for years. The two countries announced that they would reopen their embassies in a period of two months, while analysts have assumed that initial concessions will be made regarding several key differences.  

Saudi and Iran have taken radically different positions on a number of regional fronts, including in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. The conflict has also stretched towards Iran’s key involvement in Lebanon through its support for Hezbollah and Bahrain where Iran supports the Shia opposition. In the Yemen war, Saudi leads the coalition in support of the Yemeni government whereas Iran supports the Houthi rebels. The Assad regime which is directly supported by the Islamic Republic’s IRGC has been isolated from the Arab world for a decade. During the past few months the Arab states have changed their approach towards Syria with several indicators of aims to bring back Syria under the umbrella of the Arab states and away from the Islamic Republic. A Saudi Iran deal could mean that Iran will minimize support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen, keep its hands-off Syria and Lebanon. While stopping its support for militia groups all across the region and ending its hostility towards Arab states. However, that is too good to be true! 

While reinstating Ambassadors and having diplomatic ties could strengthen relations between Saudi Arabia and other Arab states with Iran, it is important to understand that the Islamic Republic has always been hostile, despite the presence of diplomatic relations for decades until Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others recalled their Ambassadors in 2016.

The history of Saudi Iran relations has not hugely impacted prospects for peace prior to 2016. Iran meddled in Bahrain’s uprising in 2011, it staged a coup attempt in Bahrain in 1981, it made continuous threats to Kuwait in the 1980s, it has full control of a number of Emiratee islands, it has attacked Saudi and Emiratee infrastructure through Yemen’s Houthis, its officials continuously make claims over Bahrain and blatantly express their support for any militant revolutionaries in the region. The Islamic Republic is responsible for terror and turmoil in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq. It has made a puppet out of Iraq, a previously powerful Arab state and a key player in the affairs of the region.  

Many observers speculate that the United States frowns upon a Saudi Iran deal. The US is heavily involved in Iran’s nuclear talks that widely affect the whole region including Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The US is well aware of the ongoing talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran, hence a decision to reestablish diplomatic ties should hardly be taken by surprise. The only matter of concern to the US would be China’s involvement in such a deal. America has always viewed itself as the protector of this region. The strong relationship between America and Saudi Arabia is way stronger that any differences between Saudi Arabia and the Biden administration, if any exist. States can find different means of making deals, creating common ground or settling differences. However, this does not mean that China’s involvement in this deal completely sidelines the US and its common interests with Saudi Arabia and the rest of the region.  

Others view that the Saudi Iran deal affects the Gulf’s peace process with Israel, while disregarding the fact that the countries involved in the Abraham Accords face different situations with the Islamic Republic. While Bahrain has no diplomatic relations with Iran, the UAE does, and this did not cause a barrier to the Abraham Accords. Relations with Israel are viewed as a step in the right direction despite differences over the Palestinian issue. Following the Abraham Accords, Bahrain, the UAE and Israel have been able to come closer on many issues, establish strong relations on the political and economic level and start a new era of peace. 

Peace among nations is always a welcomed step. However, will the Islamic Republic show seriousness towards peace?  The Islamic Republic is a crumbling state where a revolution has erupted for months and the revolution does not seem to be ending anytime soon. The Mullahs regime is weaker than it ever was. It is a state in complete economic meltdown and political instability. Its desperation for acknowledgment by its neighbours is a sign that the Islamic Republic could temporarily change directions. However, will it stop funding terrorists, reform its system domestically and become a global player? That remains to be an unanswered question. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *