Opinion

What was not said about the Saudi-Iranian agreement?

March 16, 2023
What was not said about the Saudi-Iranian agreement?

Jameel Altheyabi

So much has been said about the “unsurprising” announcement, as far as many observers and followers of the Saudi-Iranian negotiations are concerned. What Saudi Arabia and Iran have reached in Beijing for the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries was within clear-cut terms and conditions formulated by Riyadh.

But what has not been said is more significant. Even the word “surprising,” used by some, cannot be termed to describe the agreement.

Riyadh and Tehran have been negotiating for more than two years, first in Baghdad, at the invitation of former Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, and then in Muscat at the invitation of the Sultanate of Oman.

It seems clear that the recent visit to Beijing by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi may have been to ask China to intervene to save the negotiations, out of his desire to proceed with the signing of the agreement.

Accordingly, the imaginative “allegations” regarding Saudi Arabia opening the door to China to consolidate its influence in the Middle East, and the subsequent allegations that Saudi Arabia has lost confidence in its ally, the United States... are all talks without substantial evidence.

Saudi Arabia is not interested in what Western analysts say, each of whom would like to pronounce their judgment over the Beijing agreement well before it comes into force. They are free to make any remarks, some of which may be good or superficial, but most of them would be just imagination.

Among the wise sayings, ‘The Wall Street Journal’ described the agreement as foreshadowing a “new Middle East.” Among the unfortunate statements was that of the Atlantic Council expert Thomas Warrick, who summed up the whole matter by saying: “This agreement is neither the end of an era nor the start of one.”

All those experts and analysts have missed the fact that when Saudi Arabia agreed to hold negotiations with Iran more than two years ago, it considered the security of the Middle East and the stability of the region at the top of its priorities. The Kingdom is well aware that the security and stability of the region are an integral part of the security and stability of the world.

Also, what these analysts ignored was that Saudi Arabia believes in dialogue, understanding, and negotiation, as an alternative to confrontation and clash. On that basis, Riyadh had set its conditions on the negotiation tables in Baghdad, Muscat, and Beijing. Iran had no choice but to agree with the Saudi conditions. The most prominent of which was the respect for the sovereignty of states, non-interference in the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia and Arab countries, and adherence to the policies of good neighborliness and mutual respect.

It was evident for Saudi Arabia when it confirmed that the Chinese role represents an affirmation of the strategic importance of the Middle East and its strategic sea lanes, which are important to the global economy and energy. Likewise, Saudi Arabia has always been looking for diplomatic options, and not estrangement with anyone, so as to safeguard its interests as well as the interests of the region, its wealth, its economy, and its peace.

With regard to the allegations raised by the analysts that the agreement will not achieve its purpose, claiming that one of its parties will not abandon its policies that are considered the basic reason for the crisis, it is for Iran to prove the sincerity of its intentions and its sincere desire for maintaining sustainable peace and stability. This will be revealed in the coming period.

What is reported about the US reservations regarding the Chinese mediation is nothing but a hasty reading of what is in some American minds. The White House announced, the day after the agreement was made public, that its ally, Saudi Arabia, had put it in the picture well in advance. So there is no surprise, shock, or amazement, as analysts have claimed.

Moreover, there is a simple logic that the United States has not had a relationship with Iran since 1979, so how can it be asked to mediate in a dispute with Iran? Perhaps the British magazine ‘The Economist’ was right when it stated that allegations that China considered the Saudi-Iranian agreement as a gateway to hegemony in the Middle East are “exaggerated fears.”

What is certain is that Saudi Arabia has continued its negotiations with Iran with patience and fortitude, or what is called ‘carpet-weaving’ diplomacy, with the utmost diplomatic ingenuity. This is because Saudi Arabia is seriously looking for a new reality where the region’s security and strategic problems will be solved, and Iran to stop its previous interference in Saudi internal affairs and the affairs of Arab countries. It also wants peace should reign over the Gulf waterways through which oil and gas tankers pass to the countries of the world — east and west, north and south.

There is no real interest for Saudi Arabia other than stability, for its people, for its Gulf sisters, and for the peoples of the region and the world, especially in light of its huge responsibilities as the largest oil producer in the world, and as a leader in the Arab and Islamic worlds, and a pioneer and influencer in diverse fields.


March 16, 2023
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