Saudi-Iran ties: A new era

What seemed to be a stalemate has been turned into an olive branch—thanks to China. The halt in bilateral ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been resumed with the efforts of Beijing serving as the mediator. Saudi Arabia-Iran ties were deeply affected in two eras. First, during 1987–1990 and then from 2016 to 2023 after the execution of Nimr al-Nimr and the 2016 attack on the Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran.

The foreign ministers of the two countries are scheduled to meet within two months, as per reports circulating in the media. Tehran views the resumption of ties with Saudi Arabia as a step towards regional peace and security. It will reduce the political tussle the two countries were experiencing. The talks initially began in April 2021 that were finally manifested into an action plan in March 2023. China’s involvement has proved to be of paramount significance. President Xi Jinping made an official visit to Saudi Arabia in December 2022. In February, he invited Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi.

Diako Hosseini, a political analyst based in Tehran views this agreement to be one of the earliest steps toward amicability. While talking to a Middle Eastern media outlet, Hosseini said, “Saudi Arabia will likely still be cautious in economic dealings with Iran because it does not want to be exposed to US sanctions. And normalization does not necessarily mean that the two sides trust each other. Regardless, reducing tensions in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq can still entail wide-ranging interests for both sides.”

China’s influence over the region has been accentuated after its direct involvement in renewing Saudi-Iran ties. China has been rising as an economic giant and now the United States will view Beijing as a strong player supporting peace in the South Asian region. Washington should admit that China will eventually become an economic and diplomatic leader in the Asian region at large. After all, the Persian Gulf is a region with energy reserves and for having trade routes. These are important for China and it will endeavor to protect them and maintain their relevance at all costs.

The United States also views China to have made the first step in dissolving Washington’s hegemony over the region. Wang Yi, Chinese senior diplomat and Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission called the deal to be a “victory for dialogue.”

“I think it demonstrates that the U.S. ‘s influence and credibility in that region has diminished,” said Aaron David Miller who remained State Department’s Middle East policy adviser for over twenty-five years. He added that there is a new sort of international regional alignment taking place, which has empowered and given both Russia and China newfound influence and status,”

Furthermore, the streamlining of Saudi-Iran ties will bring forth regional stability. The Middle East has been overshadowed by conflicts that have heavily affected its political, economic, trade, and social stability. The positive impact of the renewal of the ties will bring harmony not only in the Middle East but in South Asia as well. The Saudi-Iran truce will also have an impact on oil prices. Being the leading oil producers, any disruption in their ties was to damage oil prices and supply. There are chances that the oil prices will stabilize soon. Riyadh and Tehran’s peace talks and the rekindling of ties will also end the proxy wars in which the two countries have been involved. This will lead to a peaceful Yemen and Syria—which will bring a new dawn over the region. There are also higher chances for the realignment of alliances between countries from the Middle East and Asia. This will promote geopolitics and socio-economic ties across various allies.

Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud views that the Saudi-Iran talks will address all impending issues facing the two countries. He said, “We reached an understanding of good neighborly relations and respect for the sovereignty of regional states and dealing with all regional threats on the basis of our dialogue.” Iran Foreign Affairs Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said the agreement “will create major new possibilities in the region, based on the principle of neighborly security.”

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

Muhammad Omar Iftikhar

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