TEHRAN – Political scientist Robert R. Bianchi is of the opinion that the balance of power in the Middle East is shifting in favor of Iran in the Middle East and this has angered Saudi Arabia, leading to tension between Tehran and Riyadh.
“The main causes of tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia are the decisive shifts in the international balance of power that are occurring in favor of Iran in the Middle East and in favor of China globally,” Bianchi told the Tehran Times in an interview.
Following is the text of interview:
Q: What are the main causes of hostility between Iran and Saudi Arabia?
A: The main causes of tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia are the decisive shifts in the international balance of power that are occurring in favor of Iran in the Middle East and in favor of China globally. Saudi rulers are struggling to adapt to both changes, but it is much easier for them to deal with China than to accept Iran as a stronger force. The rise of a distant power often feels less threatening than the rise of a neighboring power, particularly when local changes carry dangers of encirclement and internal disruption.
Q: Can a normalization of relations between Iran and the U.S. affect ties between Riyadh and Washington?
A: In the short term, Saudi rulers feel angry that the U.S. is negotiating with its “enemy.” Nonetheless, Riyadh realizes that it has no choice but to rely on the U.S. and to live with a more powerful Iran. In time, Saudi Arabia will probably follow the American lead in trying to improve relations with Iran. Because Saudi Arabia cannot defeat Iran single-handedly, it must accommodate Iran and rely on the U.S. as a counterbalance.
Q: Can a relationship between Iran and the U.S. push Saudi Arabia toward Israel?
A: Saudi-Israeli relations will always be contentious. No amount of shared anger toward the U.S. and common fear of Iran will change that.
Q: What is your opinion about the future of relations between two countries?
Q: What is your prediction of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia?
A: Iran will have to learn to become a generous hegemon in the Persian Gulf and Saudi Arabia will have to learn to become more diplomatically adept at balancing Iranian influence with assistance from the great powers, particularly China and the U.S.
Robert R. Bianchi is a political scientist and an international lawyer with special interests in China and the Islamic World. He received his doctorate and law degrees at the University of Chicago. He has taught at the University of Chicago, Nanjing University, Qatar University, the American University in Cairo, and the University of Pennsylvania.Javad Heirannia