Abu Dhabi, UAE CNN — Saudi Arabia and Iran announced on Friday that they had agreed to reestablish diplomatic ties after seven years of hostility, in a deal between the regional archrivals that could have wide-ranging implications for the Middle East. Riyadh and Tehran plan to reopen their embassies within two months in an agreement mediated by China, Saudi Arabia and Iran said in a joint statement after talks in Beijing on Friday. They also plan to reimplement a security pact signed 22 years ago under which both parties agreed to cooperate on terrorism, drug-smuggling and money-laundering, as well as reviving a trade and technology deal from 1998.
Friday’s announcement is also a diplomatic victory for China in a Gulf region that has long been considered part of the US’ domain of influence. It comes as the Biden administration tries to notch its own win in the Middle East by trying to broker a normalization pact between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
Talks had been ongoing since March 6 in Beijing between Iranian national security chief Ali Shamkhani, Saudi national security council adviser Mosaed Bin Mohammad Al-Aiban and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, according to Iranian state media. Video of the signing ceremony aired by Iranian media showed officials seated around tables on opposite sides with the Saudi Arabian, Iranian and Chinese flags around them.
“We will continue to play a constructive role in properly handling hotspot issues in today’s world in accordance with the wishes of all countries and demonstrate our responsibility as a major country,” Wang said, adding that Chinese President Xi Jinping supported it since the beginning. In an apparent push back to American influence, Wang said that “the world is not limited to the Ukraine issue” while emphasizing that the fate of the Middle East should be determined by the people of the Middle East.
Comment: JamesT brought this to my attention earlier today. He’s right. It is a big deal. My first thought was that this may finally bring peace, or an absence of war, to Yemen. This is a bold example of diplomacy as a tool of national power. Between the war in Ukraine and the threat of war in Taiwan, the West has been focused on the shininess of military power, with a little economic power thrown in the mix in the form of sanctions. Come to think of it, though, the revival and strengthening of the NATO alliance is quite the diplomatic accomplishment. Still, we’re clearly focused on military power. The bottom line is that Chinese diplomacy has made the rest of the world’s powers look small and foolish.
Another possible outcome of this Chinese diplomatic coup is the weakening and possible collapse of the all powerful petro-dollar. I don’t see this as a sure thing, but it’s possible as an Indian observer, S.L. Kanthan, put it today.
“The Saudi-Iran peace brokered by China today may very well be the cornerstone for petro-yuan — i.e., oil being sold for Chinese yuan. Obviously, this detente also paves the way for both Saudi Arabia and Iran to join BRICS. Imagine a BRICS+ with three oil giants — Russia, Saudis and Iranians. How hard will it be create a new currency that’s backed by oil and gas? Endless possibilities in a multipolar world!”