Wang Yi, China’s chief diplomat, Ali Shamkhani (R), Iran’s national security chief, and Saudi representative Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban in Beijing, March 10, 2023

Iran's Behavior Will Count In Coming Months, Say Saudi Columnists

Sunday, 03/12/2023

Saudi Arabia will watch Iran's behavior during the two-month window agreed upon to restore relations, Saudi columnists said on Sunday.

The opinion reflected continued wariness in the longtime rivalry between the region's Sunni Muslim and Shi'ite powers.

The breakthrough on Friday brokered by China, a major trade partner of both countries, followed several rounds of Saudi-Iranian talks held in the region in a bid to contain tensions, at a time of frustration by Saudi Arabia and regional allies over what they perceive as gradual US disengagement from the region and negotiations with Iran.

Tehran and Riyadh said they had agreed to resume diplomatic relations and re-open embassies within two months, adding that their foreign minister would meet to implement the deal, without mentioning a more detailed timeline.

"The two-month period ... is the first test of Iran's credibility and proof of good intentions as we must see the start of real change in the regional landscape and a real correction in its dealings with the Kingdom," Saudi columnist Hamoud Abu Taleb wrote in Okaz, a Saudi daily.

A main source of tension is Yemen, where Riyadh leads a military coalition that has since 2015 been battling the Iran-aligned Houthi movement -- which has during the war launched missile and drones at the kingdom.

Abdullah al-Otaibi, in an Op-ed in Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, agreed the timeline to reopen embassies would "test" Iran's commitment and said Beijing could play a more effective role than "failed" Western efforts with Tehran.

Persian Gulf Arab states have grown increasingly disillusioned with key ally and security guarantor the United States, including over global powers' 2015 nuclear pact with Iran which they deemed flawed for not tackling Iran's missile program and proxies.

Since the news of the Iranian-Saudi deal broke on Friday, many commentators have seen the development as a win for China that brokered the agreement.

The Wall Street Journal in an editorial blamed Biden and the Democrats for annoying the Saudis and pushing them into China’s arms. The Journal said, “the symbolic import is hard to miss as Democrats in Washington do everything they can to harass and annoy the Saudis,” adding that getting a cold shoulder from Washington Riyadh decided to “hedge” its bets.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have moved to assert more control over regional stability by pursuing conciliatory foreign policies they hope will allow them to focus on economic priorities.

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times reported this week that Saudi Arabia is demanding concessions from the Biden administration to join the peace accords with Israel. It wants US assistance in developing a nuclear power industry and less restrictions on arms sales to the kingdom. Many see the Chinese-brokered deal with Iran as further pressure by Riyadh on both the United States and Israel.

"It is natural to have diplomatic ties even if at a low level because Iran's expansionist approach has created many touch points with Saudi Arabia....(But) we have to keep our eyes open," wrote Saudi columnist Tariq al-Homayed.

"China is the guarantor for this agreement. This will be important if Iran does not comply," he added.

The United States has voiced reservations about deepening ties between Persian Gulf states and its economic rival China, whose president attended a Gulf summit in Riyadh last year at a time of severe strains in the strategic US-Saudi relationship.

Riyadh and Abu Dhabi have repeatedly said they are looking to diversify their strategic partners while pressing Washington for concrete commitments to regional security.

With reporting by Reuters

More News

24 with Fardad
24 with Fardad
News at a Glance
IITV News (12) - DC

The Truth is in Your Voice

Send your Videos and Photos to us