Camelia Entekhabifard
Editor-in-chief of the Independent Persian.

How Does the US View the Iran-Saudi Understanding?

As the Iranian new year of 1401 is drawing to a close, grand developments are occurring in the region. It used to be that the final days of the year were politically calm. State and the nation would pay more attention to domestic and home affairs and not international relations. But the events of the second half of the year has awoken the regime out of its slumber and disabused it of its illusion of grandeur.

The big news in the last week of the Iranian calendar year was the announcement of resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Following mediation by China, the two countries have pledged to normalize their relations and re-open their respective embassies within two months. This means that, before the Hajj period begins, the relations between the two countries will be normalized and the traveling of Iranian Hajj pilgrims to Saudi Arabia will be eased.

Following this news, there is also some news about the possibility of normalization of ties between Iran and Bahrain.

The Abraham Accords (normalization of ties between Israel and three Arab countries) led to worsening of relations between Iran and the United Arab Emirates and especially Bahrain. The contradictory behavior of the Iranian regime in the region and the security threats it had for its Arab neighbors, especially Bahrain and the UAE, left these countries no solution other than creating a defense shield and strengthening of their ties with Israel.

Normalization of ties between the Iranian regime and countries of the region is a sign of its failed foreign and regional policies. Events of the last five months showed the policymakers of the Islamic regime that isolation could drive them toward destruction and that they must immediately establish ties with countries of the region and draw back the militias and mercenaries connected to them in the region.

The Iranian regime is wishing to improve its relations with regional countries to come out of siege and the trap it had created for itself unknowingly. The regime policymakers previously looked down on certain countries in the region and considered them hapless slaves to the West who did nothing but serving them. Now, in practice, they see that an active diplomacy can further national interest while also safeguarding a country’s dignity.

The Saudi Arabia of today is not the Saudi of yesterday that the Islamic Republic used to consider a “slave to the West.”

The normalization of relations with Tehran serves the de-escalation plan by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman which is a part of his attempt to further economic development and social welfare as encapsulated in Saudi Vision 2030. This plan aims to secure welfare and security for Saudi citizens and it naturally needs a calm and secure atmosphere in the region.

This is why the Saudi Crown Prince first restored ties with Qatar and then Turkey; both of which had created a lot of tension in the region when he was first chosen in 2017.

I regard the improvement of ties between Riyadh and Tehran in line with the same plan and goals of the Vision 2030 which requires security and calm in the region. I’d like to be so bold as to question the conventional wisdom that believe the agreement to be a sign of China’s rising power in the region.

China has signed many economic agreements with Saudis. Saudis have also signed significant investment deals and other agreements with Russia and the US.

China’s mediation had a few different aspects. China is currently the only powerful country which maintains relations with Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US.

Saudi investment on non-oil economy and opening the country’s door to the industry of tourism, job creation, better use of natural resources, eschewing of Islamic extremism and granting of individual and social rights to citizens will quickly change the conditions in the country.

The US and Saudis can, in near future, be big rivals for production and export of crude oil to global markets.

As someone who constantly travels between East and the West, I can clearly see a growth and dynamism in the East which has led to increasing jealousy in the West.

The tired and bankrupted West which has problem paying the cost of heating and health for its own population is too tried to easily escape its current crises.

In contrast, the sunny, rich and young East pledges welfare, labor, security and social freedoms to many.

This is why, for Saudi Arabia, holding calm and friendly relations with countries with which it shares a geography is part of the long-term plan aimed at economic development and national security. It is natural for the West to be the main obstacle to the developments that smacks of its own decline.

During the seven years of Iran and Saudis not having diplomatic relations, some other events also occurred which deserve a review.

In the summer of 2019, drones attacked Aramco oil installations. The US, under the Trump administration, did nothing to defend its strategic partner (the UN considered the Iranian regime to be culpable.)

When Joe Biden was elected president, he took the Yemeni Houthis off the foreign terrorist organizations list of the State Department (2021).

For seven years, Iran and Saudis didn’t have diplomatic relations. What did US, China or Russia do to stop the war in Yemen? What military and intelligence help did they give?

The US has clearly shown to have lost its interest in the Middle East and it now focuses on the Far East. The Americans don’t want regime change. Nor do they want to take part in interventions. They have also distanced themselves from the War on Terror discourse. We see how they gave Afghanistan up to the terrorists of Taliban, paused peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians and gave a cold shoulder to the attempts to solve the crisis in Yemen.

But the events that took place in Iran and the national uprising of the people there has showed the regime that its overthrow is not impossible. The regime attempts to reduce tensions as a way of escaping the current dead-end for the regime rulers (if they can do it successfully). On the other hand, the Islamic Republic has been given two months to rethink its provocative acts and its arming and support of militias that are dependent on it. Saudi diplomacy is coherent and clear and other countries of the region are also treading on their own path. It is the Islamic Republic which must change its ways and prove that it seeks to resolve differences. In simpler words, it must prove its so-called good will.

In the last five months, the countries of the region have smartly looked at the Western actions vis a vis the people of Iran and the Iranian regime. They have exercised caution, exercising an innovative politics aimed at safeguarding their security and growing economies.

The US has said that it will welcome these talks and the betterment of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia but I believe that the American interest was in continuation of the Yemeni crisis so that it could go on selling arms and challenge Saudis in their pursuit of Vision 2030 (In an important point of time, Saudis refused to increase oil production to secure reduction of oil prices in the world market.)

If the war in Yemen ends, Saudi Arabia will show another capacity in addition to its reforms and its strengthening of economy: its diplomacy!