Experts says prospect of improving Tehran-Riyadh relations is achievable

September 29, 2021 - 20:50

TEHRAN - An expert on strategic issues says Iran and Saudi Arabia can form a new structure of relations based on understanding and building trust, and this vision is quite achievable and its realization will be in the interest of both countries and the region.

In an interview with IRNA published on Monday, Sabah Zanganeh recalled the history of the Tehran-Riyadh dispute and the recent talks between the two countries. 

“Iran and Saudi Arabia, as the two big countries in the region, are both affected by and can influence the interactions that take place in or around the region," Zanganeh remarked.

He added: "The presence and influence of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region, especially after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, has created different conditions and these conditions have been less acceptable for Saudi Arabia or a number of countries. For this reason, various measures have been taken to limit this presence and influence of Iran."

The expert on international affairs referred to the differences between Tehran and Riyadh on regional issues, especially the Yemeni war, and said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran was opposed to Saudi Arabia's treatment of Yemen and from the beginning and before the military invasion of Riyadh and its allies, called for a political solution."

After the start of the offensive, Iran suggested that operations against the Yemenis be stopped so that, under better political conditions, the country's political groups could move towards reconciliation and convergence, the analyst commented.

"The great powers did not want this to happen because it was in their interest to continue the war against Yemen so that they could sell more weapons and expand their presence in the region and have the will of the two countries that invaded Yemen their own grip."

The former representative of Iran in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stated that the tension between Tehran and Riyadh has affected the political situation in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and even Lebanon.

Iran and Saudi Arabia must acknowledge each other's power, Zanganeh suggested. 

By accepting this issue, it is not possible to disregard each other and move in another direction in such a way that the power of the two countries and the countries of the region is spent on development and peace in the region, the analyst remarked.

"The rapprochement of these two countries is apparently not to the satisfaction of some powers in the region and outside the region, therefore, they try to increase this distance to prevent the proximity, cooperation and solidarity of Tehran and Riyadh," Zanganeh pointed out.  

Zanganeh stressed that the formation of a kind of political rationality in the two countries could change the situation imposed on the two countries.

"Tehran and Riyadh can form a new structure of relations based on understanding and building trust, and this perspective is not far away, rather it is quite achievable, and the political will in both countries can implement this vision, and the result will be in the interest of both countries and the whole region."

At the same time, some countries, such as Iraq, favor a resolution of the conflicts between Tehran and Riyadh because the continuation of tensions has a negative impact on the political stability in Iraq. 

“So they are trying to reduce tensions," Zanganah said, noting that the interests of some regional and global powers lie in the dispute between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

About Baghdad's role in mediating between Tehran and Riyadh, the former diplomat said: "Iraq has played different roles in the region in different periods, especially in the relations between Iran and the Arabs, and even in one period it has become a means to exert pressure against the Islamic Republic of Iran."

Recently Iraq has started a diplomatic campaign to play a more balanced role in the region, Zanganeh said, adding realizing such a goal depends on the will of the Iraqi people and government officials on the one hand and the will of neighboring countries and great powers such as the United States, France and Britain on the other.

The former diplomat said the Islamic Republic has shown support for Iraq's stabilizing role in the region.

Zanganeh called for redefining the existing solutions to the various challenges facing Iran's foreign policy.

He also said: "The Islamic Republic of Iran should redefine its foreign policy as soon as possible and make it clear to the world, given the regional developments and the larger developments taking place around the world."

"The Islamic Republic should think about a bigger role in the region and the world and prepare itself to play more important roles in regional and global issues," he added.
 
“There is a serious will to resume Tehran-Riyadh relations”

Also Kamran Karami, an expert on Middle East issues has a positive assessment on the ongoing talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia, saying: "There is a serious will to resume Tehran-Riyadh relations and the two countries want to develop relations by reopening the consulates."

Tehran’s ambassador in Baghdad said on August 31 that Iran plans to hold a fourth round of talks with regional rival Saudi Arabia in Iraq after the new Iranian government is set up.

The Associated Press recently reported about a new round of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Talking to IRNA in an interview published on Monday, Karami said, "Several variables and factors caused Saudi Arabia to move towards negotiations and de-escalation of tensions with Iran; the first variable was U.S. pressure on Saudi Arabia to decide and negotiate with Tehran."

Promises by U.S. President Joe Biden to put pressure on Riyadh for dismembering Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, to review U.S.-Saudi relationship, suspend arms sales to the country, and withdraw Patriot systems from King Salman base have forced Riyadh to move toward de-escalation with actors such as Iran, Turkey and Qatar, the expert on Saudi affairs added. 

“The Islamic Republic should think about a bigger role in the region and the world.” 

Saudi Arabia first started de-escalating tensions with Qatar in early January 2021, then sent signals to Turkey and finally negotiated with Iran, the analyst stated.

The director of the Saudi sector at the Middle East Institute for Strategic Studies described a threat to the Crown Prince's succession as the second variable in the Saudis' move to review their relations with the countries in the region, including Iran.

"During this time there were rumors of American support for former Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. These pressures made the current Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman feel that tensions in the region were a threat” to his path be become the king in the not-too-distant future, and he was forced to move toward de-escalating tensions with actors and easing tensions to establish a more stable position within Saudi Arabia." 

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also called MBS, is the Saudi de facto leader. 

Karami also said many of Saudi Arabia's economic and social reform plans based on the “2030 Vision” have been overshadowed by the falling oil prices and the Coronavirus pandemic and this has affected his ambitions.
 
"Bin Salman was welcomed in Saudi Arabia with this perspective, and the cancellation (suspension) of these projects could threaten Bin Salman's position in this situation."

The expert on Middle East issues said that the third influential variable in Riyadh's recent policies was the easing of tensity in the region. 

"The core of crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia, such as Syria, Iraq, and to some extent Yemen, did not have much impact on creating tension in Tehran-Riyadh relations, and there seems to be a prospect for a gradual resolution of tensions between the two countries."

He pointed out that the mentioned variables played an important role in Saudi Arabia's tendency towards negotiations with Iran, and in three rounds of negotiations and consultations between the parties, and the ground for the fourth round of negotiations is being prepared.

Karami described the Yemeni crisis as one of the focal points of the Iran-Saudi Arabia dialogue. "Yemen is of great importance as one of the variables discussed at the regional level."

The Riyadh rulers expect these talks would help end the Ansar al-Allah attacks on Saudi Arabia, the expert noted.

In such a case an atmosphere based on de-escalation between Iran and Saudi Arabia can emerge which can lead to a recovery of the waning Saudi power and a kind of ceasefire can be established so that the Saudi-led coalition forces can recover inside Yemen, he commented. 

"Given the complexities of the Yemeni crisis in terms of the diversity of parties involved and the level of their differences, and Saudi Arabia's unwillingness to give enough concessions to Ansar al-Allah as one of the socio-political forces inside Yemen, the prospect of resolving the Yemeni issue is currently not obvious,” the expert on Saudi Arabia remarked.

According to the expert, the issues of the Arabian Peninsula are unlikely to overcome the atmosphere of tension in Yemen until a balance is struck between the parties involved.

"In the Iran-Saudi Arabia talks, there have been serious talks about Yemen, but the details of these talks are not yet clear and we cannot comment on this with certainty, but if Yemen is raised as one of the main contentions of the Iran-Saudi conflict, there is a hope that the crisis can be resolved," he opined.


 

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