Saudi Arabia ‘thinking outside the box’ on Iran

Saudi Arabia ‘thinking outside the box’ on Iran
Tue May 20, 2014 17:05:32

Potential talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran are bound to leave their footprints on many regional issues, including the war in Syria, political stability in Lebanon, the situation in Iraq and the level of Turkish influence in the region, analysts said.

The need to resolve regional issues was among the main reasons for last week’s Saudi announcement of its invitation to the Iranian foreign minster to visit the kingdom, they added. The news has not only received a considerable attention from the media in both the countries, but also from elsewhere in the region.

“Change in strategic interests led to this natural development,” said Saudi political scientist Waheed Hamza Hashem.

Usually, a change in the strategic interests “is prompted by a new political leadership with a new vision, or when the two parties reach a conclusion that a conflict will hurt and won’t help,” Hashem told Gulf News.

Last month, Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz removed Prince Bandar Bin Sultan from his post as Chief of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence.

The government attributed the removal to health reasons, but there were speculations that the move was related to his performance on the Syria dossier. Prince Bandar, analysts noted, was among the hawks who took a tough stance on Iran and its Arab allies in Syria and Lebanon.

“The key to end the Syria crisis is in the pockets of Saudi Arabia and Iran,” wrote Abdul Bari Atwan in a Facebook posting recently.

“The situation in Syria was the reason behind the escalation between the two countries and it is also the reason that could bring them closer,” he added.

Apart from Syria, closer ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran could have a positive impact on neighboring Lebanon and lead to the election of a new president, ending the current stalemate, observers say.

They cite previous experiences at forming governments in Lebanon, which kept failing for months and created a political vacuum until the two countries used their influence.

At the same time, the “Saudi frustration from the mysterious American behaviors coupled with the lack of an active role from the US to help the Syrian people were among the signs that indicated to the Saudis that it is better not to continue on the collision course with Iran,” Hashem said, referring to concern in the region that the US may be disengaging from the region in favor of a renewed focus on Asia.

Iran has signaled its wish to improve relations with the foreign countries, especially its neighburs.

Since he took office last year, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has spearheaded a conciliatory shift in Iran’s foreign relations, and sent his foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on a Persian Gulf tour that included UAE, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait.


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