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Saudi Arabia, Iran Agree to Reopen Embassies Following Agreement Brokered by China

Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met for a summit hosted by Beijing on Thursday, the first high-level meeting between the Middle East rivals in seven years. Photo courtesy of Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Iran’s Hossein Amir-Abdollahian (R) and Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud met for a summit hosted by Beijing on Thursday, the first high-level meeting between the Middle East rivals in seven years. Photo courtesy of Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Following the normalization agreement between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran in March brokered by the Chinese government, their respective foreign ministers met in China Thursday to address details in the resumption of relations, including the reopening of embassies.

According to reports, Iran's foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and Saudi Arabia's FM Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud signed an agreement to reopen embassies and consulates in their mutual countries.

The two former adversaries also agreed to examine different ways of expanding cooperation, including the resumption of commercial flights from Riyadh to Tehran, trips from official diplomatic delegations and the economic sector, and the creation of visas.

In a statement to reporters, the Islamic Republic stated that Iran and Saudi Arabia "emphasized their readiness to eliminate all the obstacles facing the expansion of cooperation between the two countries."

If the embassies re-opened, they would be in Riyadh, Tehran and consulates in the city of Jeddah and Mashhad.

“The most important root cause was the deterioration of United States-Saudi relations, especially between the Obama-Biden team and the Saudi leadership since 2015 when the Iran Deal was signed,” explained NewsMax TV Foreign Policy Analyst Walid Phares.

“Riyadh criticized the fact that the Obama administration didn't invite Saudi and the Gulf to join the talks and defend their interests. The Obama camp started to put pressure on Riyadh, and partially on the UAE to withdraw from Yemen,” Phares told The Foreign Desk.

“Tehran and Riyadh will reopen embassies, the Abraham accords will slow down, Iran's regime is on steroids, it will try to smash the opposition and is moving to skirmishes with Israel in Lebanon, Gaza and Syria,” Phares said.

On social media, FM Amir-Abdollahian stated that the meeting with his Saudi counterpart was "positive" and that the discussions between the two officials emphasized the "beginning of official diplomatic relations."

Iran’s FM also stated his country and Saudi Arabian counterpart emphasized "stability, stable security and development of the region."

Phares noted that under the Trump administration, “Saudi Arabia led an Arab coalition to help the US against Iran and organized a historic summit with 50 leaders to host a US President's speech against the Iran regime and the Jihadist, a revolution in Saudi policies.”

“As soon as the Biden administration took office, they delisted the Iran backed Houthis in Yemen in 2021 and asked Saudi and the Arab coalition to stop fighting the Iranian militia in Yemen, then rushed to bring back the Iran deal, canceled under Trump. After the start of the Ukraine war, Biden asked the Saudis to pump more oil, but refused to produce more in the US,” he said.

“Saudis accepted but asked Biden to include them in the discussions about the region,” Phares told The Foreign Desk.

“MBS and MBZ were marginalized again. This is when the Arab coalition decided to become independent from the administration's tutelage and developed new policies of national independence,” he explained.

“Riyadh did not become an ally of Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood, or a strategic ally of China and Russia, but moved to become a neutral and economic partner with all parties. That was their best response to the Biden policies,” Phares said.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said that Beijing would continue to work to improve relations between the two oil-rich nations.

"China is ready to continue to play an active role in mediation, support the two sides in increasing their relations, realize good-neighborly friendship, and contribute Chinese wisdom and strength to the security, stability, and development of the Middle East region," she said.

According to a video from the Saudi state media, the two ministers joined hands while posing for photos, encouraged by China's FM Qin Gang, who was standing between the two.

Following the agreement signed in March, China's top diplomat Wang Yi called the move a "victory for dialogue and a victory for peace," praising his country's "constructive role in facilitating the proper settlement of hot-spot issues around the world."

Before the 1979 Revolution in Iran and coming to power of the Islamic Republic, Iran under the Pahlavi Monarchy shared friendly relations with Saudi Arabia, becoming two of the most critical allies of the US.

Following the 1979 Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the Islamic Republic of Iran vowed to overthrow the Royal Saudi Monarchy, creating years of tensions between two of the most oil-rich nations in the Middle East. Under the Ayatollahs, Iran has exported its revolution to Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and other parts of the Middle East region, supporting groups like the Houthis in Yemen to create chaos next door to Saudi Arabia, using their proxies to attack Saudi oil shipments in the Persian Gulf and refineries.

Phares notes that Iran's regime has been “under the pressure of a women and youth revolution since October 2022.”

“The Iranian opposition has been making inroads in the West politically. By mid-Autumn, Tehran's rulers decided to resolve their problems with Saudi and the Arab coalition by offering peace and normalization. The Islamic Republic wanted to neutralize Arab pressure so that it could concentrate on crushing the revolution on the inside,” Phares told The Foreign Desk.

In the early 2000s, the two nations decided to re-engage with one another, but in 2016 revoked relations following Iranian protesters storming the Saudi embassy in Tehran after the execution of a Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia who called for the overthrow of the monarchy in Riyadh.

With the latest normalization agreement between the two former rivals, experts say the move is a blow to America's long standing relations with Saudi Arabia, allowing China to grow its presence in the Middle East.

With the Biden administration giving Saudi Arabia the cold shoulder, Phares explained that the Islamic Republic of Iran knew that Riyadh was “distancing itself from Washington and they made their offer via China.”

“Both countries for different reasons converged into a ceasefire and normalization. Iran because it was afraid of the revolution, and Riyad because it was frustrated with the Biden administration. China was ready to help moderate the meeting, and it would harvest the product of such a deal by becoming a major economic partner to both countries,” he said to The Foreign Desk.

As Saudi Arabia and Iran continue to foster new normalized relations, Phares says that America's ally in the Middle East, Israel, will “feel the heat of this deal.”

According to Phares, given Saudi Arabia’s commitment to deal with Iran, this means the Gulf Arab state will “have to abide by the stipulation that neither side will allow the other country to give permission to third parties to attack from their territories.”

“Israel will not be able to use Saudi and possibly Gulf airspace to retaliate against Iran in case of conflict. Israel will prefer to keep its gains of the Abraham Accords and wait for better days,” he said.

Phares and other experts note that the major loser in this development is the Biden administration, given that the Saudis are in Tehran "before the US!"

According to Phares, countries like Russia and China will continue to grow their military aggression against the US.

"A Russian-Chinese-Iranian naval alliance is already holding exercises in the Gulf of Oman, and China is moving to the region as a major winner," he told The Foreign Desk.

Related Story: China Brokers Deal Between Iran and Saudi Arabia – Lisa Daftari on Newsmax

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