By Fateme Salehi

Why does Saudi Arabia need to hold talks with Iran?

February 21, 2020 - 15:54

Recently, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who traveled to Germany to attend the 2020 Munich Security Conference, said, that after the martyrdom of commander Soleimani, we received a message from Saudi Arabia calling on talks with Iran. Zarif also reiterated that although he replied to the Saudis' response, he received no further messages.

Following the remarks by the Iranian foreign minister, Saudi Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud claimed that Riyadh had not sent any private messages to Tehran.

On the issue of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, we should note a few points:

First, Saudi Arabia is trying to compare the dialogue between Riyadh and Tehran with the US-Iran negotiation and is constantly changing its stance on Iran, given the regional situation.

The nature of the negotiations between Iran and the U.S. differs from that between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Iran has repeatedly stated that it is willing to hold talks with the Saudis without any preconditions, as the proximity of the two countries is in favor of stabilizing the region and reducing tensions.

Second, the Saudis have always set mostly general and vague preconditions for starting talks with Iran, such as the need for Iran to change its behavior in the region. The foreign policies of the countries are defined by their foreign interests, so Saudi Arabia expects to change all of Iran's behavior and policies in the region, which is totally inappropriate.

Third, Saudi officials have been at odds over developments in the region; on the one hand, they know that the U.S. and the West cannot provide the country’s security forever, which led Riyadh to the dialogue with Tehran, and on the other hand, they are still looking forward U.S. support. The recent regional developments have led Saudi Arabia to face new calculations in the region.

Fourth, remarks by Zarif indicates that the Saudis are deeply afraid of escalating tensions in the region. Whenever military tensions are heightened in the region the Saudis reduce their provocative actions against Iran, but once the situation is settled down they resume their actions. The most notable sample of this behavior is Saudi Arabia’s reaction to the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, as it was trying to not take a provocative stance against Iran.

Fifth, Saudi Arabia needs to restore its ties with Iran to deal with the regional cases, which are as follows:

- The Yemeni case: the first issue is the attrition warfare in Yemen that began in March 2015 with the invasion of the Saudi-led coalition and has continued until now. A war that had nothing but destruction for the Yemeni people and defeats and lots of military costs for the Saudis.

- The Syrian case: With its recent actions toward Damascus, Saudi Arabia has shown that it is seeking to improve its relations with Syria, a country that has strong ties with Iran and is a part of the axis of resistance. In this regard, Syria’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Bashar Al-Jaafari, recently attended a special ceremony held in honor of the Saudi Minister of State in New York, Fahad Bin Abdullah Al Mubarak, which drew lots of controversy.

Diplomatic sources in New York said the Saudi delegate to the UN, Abdullah bin Yahya al-Muallami had intentionally met with Bashar al-Jaafari during the visit, which was unexpected for the attendees. During their celebration Saudi officials expressed their love for Syria and said that it remained in their hearts, adding that what had occurred between the two countries was nothing but a summer cloud that will inevitably pass.

- The old competition with Turkey, especially over Libya: Ankara has become a relentless rival to Riyadh in all aspects these days, and this issue has been worsened following the Persian Gulf crisis, Saudi Arabia's cut of relations with Qatar and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia needs to improve its relations with Iran to be able to prevent Turkish influence, especially in African countries and Libya.

- The Persian Gulf crisis: improving relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia can undoubtedly be helpful in settling the crisis between Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as Doha has gotten closer to Tehran and Ankara since the crisis.

 The point is that some parties will certainly be dissatisfied with the close relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and will make every effort to obstruct it.

1. The U.S. knows that if this happens, Saudi Arabia will certainly not be able to take explicit positions in support of Washington against Iran, as it did in the past, and it will become at least a neutral country in the conflicts between Tehran and Washington, if not a friend to Iran. Therefore, the U.S. will lose its most important Arab ally in the region.

2. The Zionist regime is nowadays busy persuading the Arab parties to accept the Deal of the Century and normalizes relations with the Arab and African states. Israel does not want to lose its supporter in the current situation, which secretly agreed with the Deal of the Century and normalization of relations.

3. The UAE is not happy about the improvement of Iranian-Saudi ties, as it is not in line with its interests. An Iraqi media reported that in the wake of the resumption of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the UAE, which considers an important role for itself in regional cases such as Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Sudan, and is regarded as a soft power will be pushed back. The UAE plays a key role in preventing Saudi-Iranian relations, and wherever it fails, the Zionist regime sometimes assists it and continues to play that role.

4. Turkey, whose political relations with Iran have witnessed ups and downs in various periods of time and given the interests of both countries, cannot be happy about improving the Iranian-Saudi relations. This issue could be heavily in Saudi Arabia’s favor as Riyadh and Ankara are competing with each other in regional and extra-regional states.

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