In the midst of efforts to de-escalate tensions between the regional potential foes, Iran accepted what it called a shift in tone of Saudi Arabia and expressed optimism that the two countries will work together to achieve peace.
The remark was made by Iranian officials just days after Saudi Arabia’s de facto king said that his country means to improve ties with Iran. These unprecedented remarks have been viewed promising on the bilateral relations after long years of crisis-ridden ties.
During recent weeks, Saudi Arabia signaled its willingness to normalize relations with Iran. In a latest, and most significant remarks, Saudi Crown Prince has stated that his country needs “good relations” with its northern neighbor.
In an interview with Al Arabiya, Mohammad Bin Salman said Riyadh seeks Iran’s assistance in bringing peace and economic stability to the Middle East. He did, however, express concern about “Iran’s negative actions,” citing the country’s nuclear arsenal and missile tests.
In response, Iranian foreign ministry spokesman said “With constructive views and a dialogue-oriented approach, Iran and Saudi Arabia … can enter a new chapter of interaction and cooperation to achieve peace, stability and regional development by overcoming differences.”
The two regional powers terminated diplomatic relations in 2016 and have been involved in incessant proxy fight across the Middle East for the past years extending from Iraq to Syria and Yemen.
The ties, severed during Trump administration and under his destructive regional policies pushing all sides to extreme, seems to have found better ways to reach local aims and regional stability under new administration in Washington.
With Joe Biden’s stronger line on Riyadh’s human rights conduct and pushing the monarchy to terminated the bloody war on Yemen, Bin Salman’s strategic positions in the region was undermined. The fresh Saudi policies towards Iran is assessed on that structure seeking to prove its valuable role in stabilizing the region.
Bins Salman has stressed that his country cooperates partners in the region “to find solutions to these issues.” These remarks somehow confirmed reports on top Saudi and Iranian officials’ meeting in Iraq in recent weeks. This is while officials on both sides rejected Baghdad direct negotiations while praising constructive talks.
Further confirmation on the direct talks between the two countries was put by Iranian foreign minister. In a conservatively worded tweet, Mohammad Javad Zarif emphasized that “indications of positive signs on horizon” could be witnessed.
Tensions between the two countries have been centered on various regional issues in the past decades. With Saudi all-out assault on Yemen, the ties deteriorated even further.
Since 2015, a Saudi-led alliance of predominantly Arab states, along with the United States, made attempts to suppress the public movement inspired by Arab spring. Saudi military’s fight against Houthi movement involved striking civilian targets, killed hundreds of thousands and misplaced millions. Houthis, in response, have increased rocket assaults on Saudi oil infrastructure, Aramco in specific.
Besides, Tehran has been accused of meddling in local affairs of Syria and Iraq, as Riyadh claims, where Iranian-backed forces have considerable public and political influence. Targeting ships and oil tankers in Persian Gulf and missile and drone assaults have been among other points of dispute in recent years.
Furthermore, Riyadh was a vocal opponent of the JCPOA, 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, that reined Iran’s nuclear threat. Saudi Arabia supported Donald Trump’s decision to scrap the deal and re-impose economic sanctions in 2018.
Tehran is reportedly engaging implicitly with Biden’s administration about a roadmap to return to commitment based on the original deal after Iran’s violations of restrictions in retaliation of US violations.
While having divisions in various basic doctrines, finding a common ground between Saudi Arabia and Iran on security, economy and politics might be the solution to many of the crises currently affecting the region.