The Saudi-Iran Deal Allows Potentially New Middle East Equations

The Saudi-Iran Deal Allows Potentially New Middle East Equations
Geographically, the Middle East is considered a bridge between European and Asian countries. Recognised as the heartland of various civilisations since ancient times, the Middle East is home to many religions. Often, the most discussed topic of the 20th century is the Middle East crisis. After the end of World War II, the two superpowers created an open field of Cold War in the Middle East. Unexpectedly in the 1980s, the fall of Communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union turned the Middle East into an easy township, once monopolised by the capitalist West. It should be noted that after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the world powers began to save their interests by exploiting the Shia-Sunni conflict of Afro-Asian Arab Muslims. And its main architect was the United States and its allies.

After the discovery of oil fields in Saudi Arabia in 1932, among the 18 countries of the Middle East, the United States' attention fell on the Middle East, when one oil field after another was discovered. As a result, the oil-rich Middle East became one of the foremost economic regions in the world. Middle Eastern countries control two-thirds of the world's oil resources. And in these oil fields, the US came forward as a provider of modern technology. The US and its capitalist allies never wanted any international unity in the Middle East. Therefore, they have significantly fuelled conflict so that the resolution of the major crises in the Middle East is not possible under the current circumstances. As an ally, Saudi Arabia has always played a role in protecting the interests of the West in world politics generally and Middle Eastern regional politics in particular.

In addition, one of the reasons for the prolonging of various conflicts and crises in the Middle East is the lack of friendly relations between the Muslim states of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf region. For example, many Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, do not want to give importance to opposing Israel, in view of their own security. On the other hand, the religious leaders who came to the fore in Iran after the Islamic revolution in 1979 still deny the existence of Israel. They consider Israel to be illegally occupying Muslim lands. And Israel sees Iran as a threat to its existence. In the same way, they have conflicting positions on almost all issues, such as the Palestinian independence movement, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen and Syria, and the Lebanon crisis. In particular, Iran and Saudi Arabia have repeatedly engaged in shadow wars between themselves. However, both countries have so far managed to avoid actual war.

Diplomatic relations between Tehran and Riyadh have been suspended since 2016. That year, Saudi Arabia executed 81 people in one day, most of whom were Shia Muslims. Protesters stormed the Saudi embassy in Tehran to protest the execution of an influential Shia religious leader. Because of that incident, Iran and Saudi Arabia ended diplomatic relations. In addition, Iran and Saudi Arabia are in conflicting positions in the Yemen war that has been going on for more than 8 years. The Yemeni government is supported by the Saudi-led military coalition. Iran-backed Houthi fighters are fighting against them.

As the saying goes, in international politics there is no such thing as a permanent enemy or friend. The course of world politics changes from moment to moment due to various decisions, activities and policy formulation. Due to national interests, a rival state can suddenly turn from an important and close friend to an extreme enemy. When the United States and its allies have failed one formula after another to establish peace in the Middle East, the news of the re-establishment of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran through the mediation of Asia's superpower China has created a very good portent in international politics.

The situation in the Middle East may change now. After almost seven years of separation, diplomatic relations are restored. Both countries have announced to open embassies within the next two months. This breakthrough in relations comes as a result of more than a year of negotiations. Talks between the two countries were initially held in Iraq and recently in China.

It is customary in international diplomacy to welcome the possibility of a peaceful resolution of the long-standing dispute between these two hostile neighbours embroiled in a regional conflict. When Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore diplomatic ties last Friday after seven years, the rest of the world did the same. World leaders such as the UN Secretary General welcomed this agreement.

But the exception was the response of two countries - the United States and Israel. Both countries view Iran as an arch-enemy in the geopolitical conflict in the Middle East, and Iran also considers these two countries to be the number one threat to its country's security and sovereignty.

Naturally, Washington is very uncomfortable with this historic mediation by China. When news of the deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia first emerged from Beijing, it created surprise and alarm in Washington. The main reason for this, however, is not the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal, but their discomfort and apprehension is about China's role in this deal. International analyst Karen Kwiatkowski said it would be difficult for the US to accept Iranian-Saudi peaceful relations. In fact, the US may even try to make the deal fail, because, the return of stability in the Middle East will affect the arms trade of the United States. Besides, their singular influence in the Middle East will also be hindered.

Even the chairman of the US House of Representatives' foreign policy committee, Republican member Michael McCall, is reluctant to accept China as a 'peace broker.' In his words, "China is not a responsible power and cannot be trusted as an impartial and fair mediator."

On the other hand, this agreement has also heated up the internal politics of Israel. It gave birth to despair in them. Even the restoration of diplomatic relations is seen as a symbolic failure for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yoel Guzansky, a Persian Gulf expert at the Israeli think tank Institute for National Security, said this is a blow to Israel's efforts in trying to form an anti-Iran bloc in the region over the past few years. Considering the Middle East as a 'zero-sum game', a diplomatic victory for Iran is bad news for Israel.

Finally, it can be said that if the Riyadh-Tehran distance is reduced through the mediation of China, peace can return to conflict-riven countries like Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. This agreement indicates that China's influence is increasing as the US influence decreases in the Persian Gulf region. It is certainly the biggest change in Middle East diplomacy in recent years.

In particular, countries such as Syria and Yemen, which have become battlegrounds for Saudi Arabia and Iran's power struggle, may be somewhat reassured by the announcement. And naturally, if diplomatic relations are re-established between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and if there is a possibility of closer relations in the future, it will create a new pattern of geopolitical relations in the Persian Gulf region. And the troubled Middle East will become more peaceful, paving the way for greater geopolitical stability.