Iran-Saudi deal gives Tehran an opportunity to change
In a historic deal brokered by China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, two key regional powers, on Friday agreed to restore ties after a seven-year split and reestablish diplomatic relations. This is a significant development, which can usher in a new era with great potential to reduce tensions and improve peace and security in the Middle East.
First of all, the deal, a key piece of rapprochement in the Middle East, demonstrates the mission of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to bring peace to the region, enhance regional security and make the Middle East a peaceful environment for everyone to prosper. As he previously pointed out about Iran: “They are neighbors forever. We cannot get rid of them, and they can’t get rid of us. So it’s better for both of us to work it out and to look for ways in which we can coexist.”
It is important to point out that the crown prince has established and spearheaded a modern and comprehensive counterterrorism strategy, including the establishment of the Digital Extremism Observatory and a military coalition of 40 Muslim countries. He has also been instrumental in promoting human rights and empowering youths, including by creating more job opportunities for them. The crown prince has shown that he is a role model in terms of fighting terrorism and creating a modern region based on moderate Islamic values.
Many countries around the world, including the US and the UAE, welcomed the Saudi Arabia-Iran agreement. John Kirby, the US National Security Council spokesperson, stated: “Generally speaking, we welcome any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region. De-escalation and diplomacy together with deterrence are key pillars of the policy President (Joe) Biden outlined during his visit to the region last year.” Anwar Gargash, senior government official and adviser to the UAE president, tweeted: “The UAE believes in the importance of positive communication and dialogue among the countries of the region toward consolidating the concepts of good neighborliness and starting from a common ground to build a more stable future for all.”
With genuine and constructive actions, the Iranian leaders can come out of regional isolation and, more importantly, improve their economy
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
This is a great opportunity for the Iranian government and it is critical that Tehran’s leaders do their part in order to strengthen the deal and genuinely show that they are committed to improving relationships with Saudi Arabia. With genuine and constructive actions, the Iranian leaders can come out of regional isolation and, more importantly, improve their economy, as the deal includes restoring trade between the two nations besides reopening their respective embassies within two months. Iran’s economy has been deteriorating in the last few years, placing significant pressure on the government and the people.
In order to accomplish the important objective of fulfilling its responsibilities and strengthening the deal, the Iranian government can take several critical steps that will have a significant impact not only on Iranian-Saudi relations, but also on regional peace and security.
First of all, the Iranian leaders ought to fully respect Saudi Arabia’s national security interests. For instance, while Yemen does not pose a national security threat to the Iranian government, it does to Saudi Arabia, since it shares a border with the Gulf state. This suggests that the Iranian government ought to order the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to completely halt its military assistance to the Houthis.
In addition, the Iranian government can strengthen the deal by relinquishing its desire to export its revolution. It would be in the interest of Tehran to fundamentally change its core mission, which stipulates: “The Army of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps … will be responsible not only for guarding and preserving the frontiers of the country, but also fulfilling the ideological mission … that is, extending the sovereignty of God’s law throughout the world.”
Finally, in order to enhance regional peace and security and further improve relationships with Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, the Iranian government can take immediate action to address the critical concerns of regional countries regarding its nuclear ambitions. The Iranian leaders should halt their nuclear program, thereby eliminating the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the region.
In a nutshell, critical diplomatic initiatives have led to the historic Iran-Saudi pact, which is a key development for reducing tensions and enhancing peace and security in the region. It also offers an invaluable opportunity for the Iranian government for de-escalation via diplomacy and embracing friendship with the regional power, Saudi Arabia.
Improved relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia could have a significant impact on the region’s geopolitical and economic landscapes. If the Iranian government fulfills its duties and commits to this historic deal, the region can witness a better future, preserving the economic, political and strategic interests of all parties involved.
- Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh