Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

The Easiest Negotiations with Iran

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman welcomed Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian while he was visiting Saudi Arabia, prompting speculation about the trip.

Some read into the body language in the photos that were released. Others made speculation. In Washington, some, like American-Iranian supporter of “Tehran’s causes” Vali Nasr said there were far less complications than what was expected.

I believe these are the easiest Saudi-Iranian negotiations that have been held in the past four decades. Saudi Arabia and Iran are not the same countries they were in the past. They’re not even the same countries they were two years ago.

It is clear to everyone that Saudi Arabia chose development as part of its strategic choices. It wants to be an effective international player, not one preoccupied with local details. Iran set its strategic choices as it teeters on the edge of the abyss: the nuclear file, its economic challenges and internal policy.

I say easier because the Saudi demands are clear. They are not related to what Iran can offer in Lebanon, Gaza, Sanaa, Syria or Iraq, but Riyadh has a direct and clear question: Do you want to seize opportunities and be part of investments?

Do you want to be part of Saudi initiatives, ranging from politics to sports to the economy? Certainly, Tehran is very aware of this, and the Iranian minister visited Saudi Arabia while being aware that Riyadh is very involved in the file of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

The observer will notice that Riyadh has requested the activation of past deals, meaning committing to what was previously agreed upon. There is no need to test the Saudis again. The Iranian minister, meanwhile, vowed that Tehran will support Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh.

This is why the Iranian minister’s visit to Saudi appeared “less complicated” and less dramatic than what people tried to portray and for a clear reason. Saudi Arabia’s strategic choices are different, can be implemented swifter and have a greater impact.

Riyadh today isn’t offering grants and donations and wasting time in useless mediations in the region. It doesn’t have militias it can negotiate over. Rather, and as I have repeatedly said, Saudi Arabia has opted to maintain relations and be open to dialogue with everyone, including Iran.

Saudi Arabia has done so to bolster investment and partnership opportunities. It has learned from past experience and found out that it is best to look to the future and seize opportunities that will benefit the Kingdom, its people and everyone. Success requires the least number of crises.

This can only be achieved through partnerships and exploiting opportunities. This is no easy feat for Riyadh and Tehran given their turbulent history, but it is possible if Iran returns to the rules of the game: refraining from the meddling in the affairs of others and avoiding stirring instability.

The ball is now in the Iranian court. All of the above cannot be achieved through pledges and sweet talk, but through actions. The road is long, especially given the American and international sanctions on Iran. This is why these have been the easiest negotiations, because the Saudi strategy is clear: building and development.