Why Iran-Saudi talks are important
Bobby Naderi
Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is seen during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, February 21, 2020. /Getty

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan is seen during a press conference in Berlin, Germany, February 21, 2020. /Getty

Editor's note: Bobby Naderi is a London-based journalist, guest contributor in print, radio and television, and documentary filmmaker. The article reflects the author's opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Regional arch-rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia are expected to improve ties and have reached some agreements in their reconciliatory negotiations to build trust and end hostilities.

According to Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, more talks are needed to improve relations, but negotiations have been heading in the right direction and have gone a "good distance."

His Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, has also confirmed that his country held its first round of direct talks with Iran's new government last month, expressing the hope that Iran will offer a basis to address unresolved issues and "we will strive and work to realize that."

At the very least, if the two neighbors have a hope of transitioning to a region which remains stable for everyone, particularly for Yemen and Syria, it's time to focus on dialogue and what might truly be possible in a thoughtful and realistic way. In order to reverse the mistrust that has become entrenched on both sides, acts of good faith are also key.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are on opposing sides in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts. This makes the ongoing negotiations in the interests of the war-torn countries. They can also end Iran's regional isolation, understanding that good relations with Arab neighbors are more important than agreements with the U.S. Best of all, this great diplomatic leap forward may serve as a model for other countries desperate to exit a failed status quo imposed on them by the West.

So, it's not surprising if the new Iranian administration, under President Ebrahim Raisi, gives priority to regional diplomacy over other issues such as the resolution of nuclear dispute with the United States. Tehran is in no hurry to revive the nuclear deal but focuses its foreign policy on the region.

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's president, holds his first news conference following his victory in the presidential election, Tehran, June 21, 2021. /Getty

Ebrahim Raisi, Iran's president, holds his first news conference following his victory in the presidential election, Tehran, June 21, 2021. /Getty

This might also have something to do with U.S. President Joe Biden's Afghanistan policy and the lost war. Many regional countries who believed in Washington's support have joined a growing line of abandoned and frustrated allies. The imperial disaster and pivoting to Asia have, not surprisingly, discouraged many countries from trusting Washington's words and commitments ever again. The conclusion is that the U.S. has lost its global stature and cannot be trusted at all.

In such conditions, Tehran and Riyadh are doing the right thing to resume dialogue and rethink their regional policies and plans, particularly in Syria and Yemen. The U.S. will do nothing to solve their regional disputes. Its poor leadership and demoralizing effect on the region failed to bring about any order or reduce tensions. It is now up to the countries in the region to take matters into their own hands in order to solve their problems.

Beyond the closed circle of official Washington, talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia can and should help solve the Yemeni crisis by establishing dialogue with the main backers of Houthi militias. For Iran, good relations with Riyadh normalize inter-Arab relations and pave the way to circumvent U.S. sanctions. Equally, the support of Arab countries will play an important role in ending the Syrian conflict.

To be sure, Riyadh and Tehran stand to win if they revive relations based on mutual grounds and in the interests of the region. The man-made humanitarian catastrophes in Syria and Yemen cannot go on forever. Other countries also need to come to the same conclusion that they will always remain neighbors with Iran and that the U.S. won't support them forever. Without dialogue nor agreements, there can be no regional peace and security. There is a difficult road ahead, but it's doable and needed to produce concrete results.

All countries in the Middle East have shared interests in the forceful affirmation of the unity and security of the region, and in the termination of the U.S. military presence and interference. Many are stakeholders in the Syrian and Yemeni conflicts and are not happy about an open-ended U.S. military presence with a clear-cut objective of full-spectrum dominance that is inexorably on the wane.

Without question, for Saudi Arabia and others countries in the region, factors including the debacle in Afghanistan, the failure of sanctions and diplomatic pressure, the Syrian and Yemeni crises, and a shift in U.S. focus towards Asia mean diplomacy is the only way forward regarding the situation with Iran. They know that the U.S. can't be trusted and that any country could easily become the next target for the military-industrial complex and the cult of air war.

Despite their ideological differences and not being on the same page in Yemeni and Syrian conflicts, Tehran and Riyadh fully grasp that their reconciliatory negotiations need to continue. They have enormous responsibilities – and the opportunities as well – to ensure that the new diplomatic approach is set up to succeed, which has significant implications for the fate of the whole region.

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