Why China, Not the US, Could Broker Iran-Saudi Truce

Analysts say Americans lost credibility due to their approach in the Middle Eastern region

Saudi Arabia and Iran signed an agreement brokered by China on March 10 to resume diplomatic relations seven years after they broke off ties (Photo: Twitter account of Saudi Arabia government)

The historic and game-changing peace agreement signed in Beijing on March 10 between Saudi Arabia and Iran, two large oil producers in the Middle East who also represent two sects of Islam competing for political dominance, must serve as a lesson in humility for the United States, analysts say.

The deal, brokered by China to end the conflict between these countries that has been raging continuously for the past seven years, will have a far-reaching impact and may set in motion initiatives to end wars and defuse tensions mounting in the region and beyond, including in India and Pakistan. Some analysts are of the view that it is a sign of a changing global order in which China is increasingly seen as a peacemaker and the US as a warmaker.

Trita Parsi, author and executive vice-president of the Washington-Based Quincy Institute

Trita Parsi, author and executive vice-president of the Washington-Based Quincy Institute, said in a statement, The United States has adopted an approach to the region that has disabled it from becoming a credible mediator.” Parsi was earlier president of the National Iranian American Council. An expert on the region, he is the author of Treacherous Alliance, A Single Roll of the Dice and Losing an Enemy. His family had to flee Iran following the Islamic revolution of 1979 fearing political repression.

Parsi adds, “What should worry American decision-makers is if we become so deeply embroiled in the conflicts of our regional partners that our manoeuvrability evaporates and our past role as a peacemaker is completely ceded to China.” He also said that China being a mediator shouldn’t be viewed as a threat by the US because a more stable Middle East “where the Iranians and Saudis aren’t at each other’s throats also benefits the United States”.

The normalisation of ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran will have a positive impact on all countries in the Middle East and even beyond, including Pakistan and India

Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose hostilities have dominated Middle Eastern politics for years now, agreed on March 10 to resume diplomatic relations besides reopening their embassies on each other’s soil within two months.

Parsi also noted that the Saudi-Iranian normalisation agreement will have positive repercussions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and perhaps most importantly, Yemen, where Iran and Saudi Arabia are engaged in a proxy war that also involves other countries such as the UAE.

The deterioration in Shia-Sunni relations (Iran representing the former and Saudi Arabia the latter) has ended up radicalising both sides. Responding to the 1979 Shiite revolution in Iran, Saudi Arabia financed Wahabi Sunni extremists and other jihadists. Over the decades, both countries have had ups and downs in their diplomatic ties and Saudi Arabia has especially contributed to instability within Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan where it funded extremist Wahabi groups. Such groups had created problems for India as well by pumping money into Wahabi outfits.

First published in Open


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