The Significance of an Improved Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations on Regional Stability
By Kayhan Barzegar

The Significance of an Improved Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations on Regional Stability

Dec. 29, 2023  |     |  0 comments

China’s mediation between Iran and Saudi Arabia occurred at a crucial time, extending beyond just bilateral relations. It is important not to view it solely in this light. The influence of the Ukrainian war signifies broader geopolitical shifts impacting the region. The war, emerging outside of the Middle East, enabled regional powers to assume more active roles while great powers were preoccupied. At the same time, it presented regional countries with opportunities for cooperation to settle their issues.

China’s timely intervention played a pivotal role in forging political ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as both nations sought to expand their diplomatic reach and recalibrate their relations with great powers. The Ukrainian war appeared to have been a catalyst for this regional cooperation, marking a significant shift. This development challenges the Western expectation that regional countries, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Brazil, and others, would adhere to diplomatic norms,  traditionally dominated by Western strategies. However, the imposition of sanctions on Russia has divided the global landscape into what we refer to as the Western World and the Non-Western World, precluding such uniformity.

The Western World expected compliance from others with its rules, but the non-Western world resisted. This resistance presented an opportunity for non-Western countries including Iran and Saudi Arabia to assert themselves. Both nations seized this moment to play pivotal roles, significantly impacting regional dynamics. China’s strategic approach in facilitating the rebuilding of relations between these two countries has been instrumental in promoting regional stability. The burgeoning cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is key to achieving more balanced regional stability in the Middle East, addressing the current security dilemmas. The region presents a dichotomy: on one side, there are areas embroiled in conflicts like Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Lebanon; on the other, it boasts a prosperous landscape, home to oil-rich countries pursuing ambitious economic growth plans. This duality is something I acknowledge with great respect.

All countries in the region aspire to prosperity, economic growth, and sustainable development. Improved Iran-Saudi Arabia relations hold the potential to mitigate conflicts and promote a more prosperous Middle East. Historically, Iran and Saudi Arabia, as two dominant regional powers, were locked in persistent rivalry, leading to a continued dilemma between cooperation and deterrence. In addition, as Dr. Abdulaziz mentioned, the involvement of America and other countries in Middle Eastern affairs adds another layer to this complex dynamic.

Iran aimed to strengthen regional cooperation, yet was hindered by the dilemma of cooperation versus deterrence. This barrier is now diminishing as Iran and Saudi Arabia have opened lines of communication. The political and psychological impact of this cooperation is promoting both countries to consider the broader strategic relations, aligning with the expectations of other regional countries. Previously, Iran and Saudi Arabia's rivalry adversely affected Iraq. However, the current enhancement of Iran-Saudi Arabia relations is now evident in Iraq. Therefore, the cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia is becoming increasingly vital for regional stability.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are working to develop relations that address regional conflict. A prime example is the de-escalation in Yemen, benefiting not only these countries but also Yemen and the wider region. This improvement in relations could potentially trigger a domino effect, starting politically and hopefully expanding to broader strategic alliances. As neighboring Muslim countries, there is a mutual desire for cooperation. Iran’s government, emphasizing its Arab connections, is keen on fostering cooperation and establishing balanced regional ties. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia are grateful for China’s mediation, which not only aids bilateral relations but also enriches international and regional cooperation dynamics.

The improvement in regional stability is a significant achievement, and China, adhering to its traditional policy of fostering regional stability, provides a vital role in this context. China’s interest extends beyond regional goods or commodities; it values the geopolitical influence of both Iran and Saudi Arabian, as well as the economic strength of Saudi Arabia. This not only facilitates investment flows towards China but also helps in securing its western border. This dynamic is emblematic of the non-Western world’s burgeoning influence. It is not merely a kind of global maneuver but also a testament to the non-Western world’s capacity to asset itself. Iran and Saudi Arabia, in their efforts, are making substantial contributions to regional and global politics.

Iran is now gaining more respect from countries like Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s decision to engage more closely with Iran and establish relations is a significant move. The trilateral interactions among China, the United States, and Russia add strategic depth to Iran-Saudi Arabian relations. Saudi Arabia’s approach towards Iran is a wise one, recognizing that in our region, security and politics are deeply intertwined. Therefore, cooperation is not just beneficial but essential for the stability and prosperity of the region.

In my last point regarding the regional security system, I believe it should be predominantly local. This implies that external countries like the United States, Turkey, Russia, or China, in expressing their interests, should engage directly with the regional countries and seek to safeguard their interests through local channels. The responsibility for regional security primarily lies with the regional countries themselves. Thus, this is a region where cooperation among individual countries is essential. Each state must contribute to its regional role. Through the collective effort of these roles, an effective regional security system can be realized. While the system should be locally focused, it also allows for external nations to articulate their interests within this framework.

Some countries like Iran, harbor concerns about the United States’ influence in the region, which needs to be addressed. External intervention in regional affairs must be minimized I acknowledge America’s interest in the Persian Gulf, but the U.S. needs to recognize that regional governments ought to take precedence. America can pursue its interests in collaboration with these regional governments. Establishing this principle as a foundational rule in the security system is essential. Our collective security system should emerge from the individual security of each regional country. This approach aligns more with a bottom-up theory rather than a top-down model.