Recent remarks by the Iranian and Saudi officials on the dialogue between the two countries highlights significant points regarding the prospects for bilateral relations between Tehran and Riyadh.
Recently. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamad Javad Zarif noted. After the martyrdom of Lt. General Soleimani. we received a message from Saudi Arabia that they wanted to hold talks. We responded positively and voiced readiness. however. we received no other response from them.
Emphasizing that Iran does not seek tension with its neighbors. Zarif reiterated that the Islamic Republic considers the security of its neighbors as its own and is ready to hold discussion with all of them.
Following these remarks. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud claimed that Riyadh had not sent any private messages to Tehran.
Saudi Foreign Minister accused Iran of launching missile strikes against Saudi oil facilities and arming Yemeni Ansarullah and said. Our message to Iran has always been that if Iran accepts that its regional behavior including launching missiles does not help the stability of the region. then there will be the potential for dialogue.
We should note a few points regarding the talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia:
First. Saudi Arabia is trying to compare the talks between Riyadh and Tehran with that of Iran and US. Saudi Arabia is constantly changing its stance on Iran. given the regional conditions. Saudi Arabia makes its decisions based on the negotiations between Iran and US and the nuclear deal. However. Saudi officials should keep in mind that Iran`s view of US is not the same as Iran`s of Saudi Arabia. The US is considered a hostile state to Iran. especially Trump’s administration.
The nature of the negotiations between Iran and US differs from those between Iran and Saudi Arabia and they should assess the dialogue with Tehran regardless of the relations between Iran and US.
Second. Saudi Arabia always sets preconditions for the talks with Iran which are general and unclear such as the change in Iran’s behavior in the region. Foreign policies are defined by foreign interests. therefore Saudi Arabia’s expectation for the change in Iran`s behavior in the region is completely inappropriate.
Third. Saudi officials have reached a contradiction over the regional developments. On one hand. they know that US cannot provide them with security forever and they [Saudi Arabia] are willing to hold talks with Iran. on the other hand. they still seek US support.
Recent developments in the region. in particular the targeting of US drone by Iranian forces. the unprecedented missile attack on one of the largest US military bases in Iraq. as well as the Yemeni Resistance Force`s attack on the Aramco refinery. have made Saudi Arabia see new equations in the region.
Fourth. Zarif’s remarks indicate that Saudi Arabia is extremely afraid of regional tension and whenever tensions are escalating. they reduce their provocative actions against Iran. however. after the de-escalation. they return to their previous condition. The most notable example was Saudi’s response to the martyrdom of Lt. General Soleimani. After the assassination. they tried not to take a provocative stance against Iran and emphasized on lowering tensions and bringing peace to the region.
Fifth. Saudi Arabia needs to repair its relations with Iran to resolve a number of cases in the region.
The case of Yemen. the war in Yemen begun in March 2015 after the invasion of Saudi coalition and has had nothing except destruction for the people of Yemen and huge military expenses for Saudi Arabia.
The case of Syria: Saudi Arabia indicated recently that they seek to improve their relations with Syria which has strong relations with Iran and is part of the Resistance Axis. The most significant example in recent days which caused a lot of controversies was the presence of the Syrian Permanent Representative at a ceremony hosted by Saudi Arabia at the United Nations in New York.
Diplomatic sources in New York said the Saudi permanent representative to the United Nations had intentionally met with Bashar al-Jafari during the visit. This friendly meeting with the Syrian ambassador was unexpected for the participants.
The old rivalry with Turkey. especially over Libya: Ankara has become an ardent rival to Riyadh in all fields these days. and this has been exacerbated since the Persian Gulf crisis and ending of Saudi Arabia`s relations with Qatar and the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia needs to improve its relations with Iran. at least in order to counter Turkish influence. especially in African countries and in particular Libya.
Persian Gulf Crisis. Undoubtedly. improving relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia can also be helpful in resolving the Saudi-Qatari crisis. as Qatar has clearly come closer to Iran and Turkey since the crisis.
Although efforts have been made to improve relations between the two countries and various mediators (including. Oman. Iraq and Pakistan) have expressed interest in reconciling Saudi Arabia and Iran and reducing tensions between the two major players in the region. their actions and diplomatic trips to Iran and Saudi Arabia have so far failed. as Saudi Arabia has not yet fully realized the need to negotiate with Iran on the one hand and to exclude the United States from its regional equations on the other.
US. Zionist regime. UAE and Turkey will not approve better relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia and do whatever they can to stop it.
Ultimately. if Saudi Arabia seeks to strengthen its regional position and reduce tensions in the Middle East to safeguard its economic and political interests. there is no other way except working with regional countries. especially Iran.