After almost seven years of conflict, Saudi Arabia and Iran have announced to diminish their rivalry and restore their relations. They have sworn in for reopening their embassies and begun collaborating in security and trading sectors.
Their arch-rivalry is the pillar of broader regional tensions between the Shia and Sunni Muslims. Both of them have their hands dirty from proxy fights in Lebanon, civil wars in Syria and Yemen, disputes in Bahrain, Iraq, and many other places.
The fact that Riyadh and Tehran have agreed after almost two years of diplomatic talks and the Chinese intervention to mediate this deal is what is way more surprising and thoughtful at the same time. As a matter of fact, in global politics, the mediatory role has always been played by the United States. After looking at the relationship between Saudi and US since the 1940s, it becomes even more astonishing.
Saudi Arabia abandoned its diplomatic ties with Iran in 2016 when its embassy in Tehran was charged by mobs angry over their clash with Saudi’s execution of an eminent Shi’ite Muslim cleric.
The conflict between the two major powers in the middle east has created instability in the whole region. Instability in neighboring countries like Yemen, Bahrain, Syria, and others has increased.
Saudi Arabia had been trying to restore diplomatic talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran and Oman for two years, a Saudi official with close contact with this deal said.
Mitigated Risks of Military Confrontation
An open channel of dialogue is a sure-shot way of solving conflicts. But, room for miscalculation always remains constant.
Torbjorn Soltvedt, principal Middle East and North Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, has called the deal a necessary pressure valve amidst the escalated regional conflicts.
He brought forward Israel and Iran’s hide-and-seek warfare and Iran’s retaliatory attacks upon shipping and energy infrastructure across the region and is still keeping complete normalcy out of the scenario.
The blame for the numerous attacks in this region, especially the Saudi and Emirati ships and oil infrastructure, has been collectively placed upon Iran by Riyadh and Washington, isolating Iran in the region and globally, respectively.
Soltvedt emphasized that these nations will remain rivals with competing regional visions. Still, an enhanced mode of communication can take the edge off of a direct military face-off.
Role of Chinese Intervention
Chinese President Xi Jinping‘s visit in December last year brought in a significant gear shift in these talks. In a bilateral meeting, Xi Jinping brought a proposal in front of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to negotiate this deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as it has healthy relations with both nations.
The Crown Prince moved ahead and sent an outline of all the previous rounds of talks and his sketched plan to China. This was followed by the visit of Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s president, to Beijing in February this year. An official said that this visit marked Iran’s acceptance of Saudi’s proposal presented by the Chinese.
Role of the United States
John Kirby, the spokesman of the National Security Council, said that they support any attempts to de-escalate conflicts in the region, also notifying that they think it’s well aligned with their interests and that the Biden administration had made such efforts in this direction.
This deal is much more significant for the world order than just the tensions in the Middle Eastern region. It shows the Chinese might live in the Arab region, which is claimed to be US-leaning. China is also economically a significant player as it is the largest buyer of Riyadh’s oil and an exporter of massive goods to this region.
The leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE have strategically taken small steps to expand their foreign relations with other prominent nations and reduce their dependence on the US. These plans had fastened since the heated tensions between Riyadh and Washington last year when the Biden administration asked Saudi to increase their oil production so that the oil prices would cool down; instead, Saudi reduced the oil production as a counter.