In a move that’s sure to shake up the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Iran have buried the hatchet and agreed to reopen embassies within two months, as well as activate a security cooperation agreement signed back in 2001, according to a tripartite statement co-signed by China.
This momentous shift has far-reaching implications, extending well beyond the borders of these two regional powerhouses. The resumption of cordial relations could spark a major overhaul of the region’s alliance network, potentially upsetting the delicate balance of power in the Middle East.
Of course, there are other conflicts simmering in the background, such as the ongoing dispute over Yemen and the lesser-known tension in Lebanon. But this historic move could pave the way for a host of future collaborations in areas ranging from Iraq to Syria, cementing the two nations’ place as major players in the region.
And it’s not just the Middle East that will feel the aftershocks of this momentous shift. The announcement has already garnered significant attention from both regional and international parties, underscoring the geopolitical heft wielded by both nations. In fact, several Arab and Gulf nations have already welcomed the agreement, recognizing the strategic importance of this development for the entire world.
The aftershocks of Saudi Arabia-Iran normalization
Saudi Arabia and Iran’s recent agreement has sparked numerous questions about what it means for both parties. Saudi Arabia stands to gain several strategic advantages if tensions with Iran can be reduced, including the ability to focus on other regional issues, like the crisis in Yemen and the potential to decrease Iran’s influence in the region.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has shifted its strategy towards developing its economy and prioritizing economic growth. As a result, the Kingdom has prioritized diplomatic efforts aimed at reducing regional disputes, including the crisis in Yemen and disputes with Qatar and Turkey.
Saudi Arabia has been engaging in dialogue with Iran for the past two years but the complexities of the issue have delayed progress. The Kingdom is now eager to establish a strong foundation for dialogue that will lead to real results.
For Iran, the benefits of easing tensions with Saudi Arabia are significant and could potentially surpass those of Saudi Arabia. Iran has been eager to continue dialogue with the Kingdom for the past two years and the recent agreement offers strategic and political gains for Iran. Overall, the agreement between the two regional powers has far-reaching implications for the region and the world.
Tehran is aiming to kill two birds with one stone: firstly, prevent the formation of a NATO-style regional alliance against it and secondly, take the edge off the crises that have plagued it for years, as they have exhausted the Iranian economy and jeopardized the fate of the ruling regime. Tehran hopes to bury the hatchet with Saudi Arabia to alleviate Iran’s regional and international isolation and give it a leg up against the West and Israel.
This is particularly critical since the attempts to revive the Iranian nuclear agreement negotiations have hit a brick wall, with all the potential for Iran to face more Western sanctions, especially due to Tehran’s stance on the Ukraine crisis.
The conversation between Saudi Arabia and Iran could yield benefits for other regional players, including Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Collaboration between the two nations can help secure stability and peace in Iraq, find a resolution for the conflict in Syria and resume relations between Riyadh and Damascus. A warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran will result in lightning-fast moves on the Middle Eastern chessboard in the near future.
Furthermore, practical solutions will be sought for the intensifying crisis in Lebanon, given Riyadh and Tehran’s sway within the Lebanese decision-making circles.
The writer is a UAE political analyst and a former Federal National Council candidate.