Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman meets Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, November 11, 2023.

One Year Since Detente, Tensions Remain Between Iran, Saudi Arabia

Monday, 03/11/2024

A year after the detente restoring diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, relations between the regional rivals remain tense.

On March 10, the two nations agreed to reopen embassies and exchange ambassadors, ending a seven-year diplomatic freeze. However, progress has been slow, and ties between the countries remain at a minimal level.

Despite efforts to mend ties, including meetings between top security officials in Beijing and the signing of diplomatic and security cooperation agreements, Saudi Arabia and Iran have yet to translate diplomatic gestures into substantial agreements. The ongoing conflict in Yemen continues to hamper progress with the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen still at work with Saudi-backed coalition forces.

The Israel-Hamas conflict has heightened the need for peacemaking efforts in the region, with concerns over Iran's support for proxies destabilizing the area. While there have been discussions regarding potential areas of cooperation, including Saudi investment in Iran's economy, disagreements persist over regional issues.

Saudi Arabia has discussed economic measures to incentivise Iran to reign in its proxies, but as the Houthis' blockade of the Red Sea continues to hamper global trade, the Saudi influence remains in question.

A major obstacle between the two remains to be claims over the Arash/Dorra oil and gas fields in the northern Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia and its allies refusing to recognize Iranian claims. 

Saudi Arabia severed ties with Iran in 2016 following the storming of its embassy in Tehran during a dispute over Riyadh's execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric. Subsequent conflicts, including missile and drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities and tankers in the Persian Gulf from Iran's Houthi militia further strained relations amid an almost decade-long war.

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