Al-Kadhimi seeking breakthrough in Saudi Arabia-Iran talks
Al-Kadhimi seeking breakthrough in Saudi Arabia-Iran talks
During a meeting with leaders of various Palestinian factions in the Syrian capital Damascus on Saturday, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “Iran welcomes the restoration of relations with Saudi saudi. We welcome the reopening of embassies and the start of political dialogues. He added, “We also welcome the strengthening and expansion of relations between Tehran and Cairo for the benefit of the region and the Islamic world.”
Amir-Abdollahian’s positive expressions came after Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi visited Iran last month as he returned from Saudi Arabia after meeting Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
It appears that Iran’s foreign minister is seeking to invest in Al-Kadhimi’s efforts to reduce tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. Diplomatic relations between the two capitals were severed in 2016 after a number of Iranians attacked Saudi diplomatic missions in Tehran and Mashhad.
In April, the Iranian agency Nour News published a photo of the fifth round of the Saudi-Iranian dialogue, which was held in Baghdad under the direct sponsorship of Al-Kadhimi. The photo included the Iraqi Prime Minister, as well as Director General of Saudi Arabia’s General Directorate of Intelligence Khaled Al-Humaidan and Deputy Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council Saeed Iravani. The image is clear in its meaning. Al-Kadhimi – in person and without anyone acting on his behalf – follows the course of the dialogue between the Kingdom and Iran, as well as the management of the security of senior officials of the two countries.
This means: There is an overwhelming Iraqi will to make the mission a success, the files discussed are still not at the diplomatic level, and there are questions and problems related to “security”, “good intentions” and “confidence-building,” which must be agreed upon before the two countries’ foreign ministers can meet.
Amir-Abdollahian described the talks between the two countries as “constructive”. His Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, said “progress has been made in negotiations with Iran, but it is not enough”. However, the latter also stressed that “Riyadh’s hands are always extended to Tehran”.
Prince Faisal’s position is an extension of the position announced by the Crown Prince in an interview with The Atlantic magazine in March, in which he said: “They (the Iranians) are our neighbors and will always be our neighbors. We can’t get rid of them, and they can’t get rid of us. So it is better for us to solve our problems and look for ways to coexist.
There is a common Saudi and Iranian will to break the deadlock in relations between the two countries.
Hassan Al Mustafa
Therefore, there is a common Saudi and Iranian will to break the deadlock in relations between the two countries, to start building trust and to reopen diplomatic missions, which are important steps. If this is achieved, it would not only be in the interest of Riyadh and Tehran, but also in the interest of the stability and security of the Arab Gulf and the wider Middle East.
So, if this will exists, what is delaying the completion of reconciliation between these two major oil-producing countries?
Restoring Saudi-Iranian relations is no small feat. There have been many thorny issues that have led to suspicion, apprehension, competition and even indirect warfare, in addition to intelligence work and interference in internal affairs. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of training groups opposed to Riyadh, providing them with logistical expertise, weapons, cash and explosives, and supporting them in perpetration acts of violence and terrorism in Saudi Arabia. These actions undermined the national security of the Kingdom. This case specifically concerns the IRGC’s support for its armed fundamentalist cells in the Gulf States, including Bahrain. If progress is made on this file and if the Iranian political leadership gives concrete guarantees that it will not support these armed militias, then we can speak of real progress in the negotiations.
There are files that can be a gateway for the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. One is the organization of the Hajj season, for which “head of Iran’s Hajj and Visiting Organization Sadeq Hosseini met with Saudi Minister of Hajj and Umrah Tawfiq Al-Rabiah and discussed ways to increase the quota of Iranian nationals during this year’s Hajj season,” Nour News reported last month.
The energy file, including the OPEC+ alliance and the stability of oil supply, is another area in which it is possible to agree outside the political dispute. Saudi Energy Minister Abdulaziz bin Salman has in the past spoken of his respect and cooperation with former Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh, describing him as a “personal friend” and adding: ” His friendship has always been seen as a useful means of enabling us to overcome the political difficulties which prevent us from reaching an agreement.
Everyone agrees on the importance of confronting Daesh and Al-Qaeda terrorism and cooperating in the fight against drug trafficking, dangers that threaten both Saudi Arabia and Iran . These are also issues that could form a solid basis for cooperation, even if Iran is accused by Saudi Arabia of using Al-Qaeda as a security and political pressure card by harboring several members of the organization and families of its leaders.
The dangers to the Middle East posed by the Russian-Ukrainian war; the global food crisis; financial inflation and depressions that may affect the economies of countries bordering the Arabian Gulf; the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic; and the security, political and economic repercussions of the wars in Yemen and Syria should all push these two important countries to try to find common ground.
Al-Kadhimi is aware of the difficulty of this task and of the fact that the negotiations, which he hopes will be fruitful, could be interrupted at any time, in particular due to the failure of the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the United States. in Doha and before that in Vienna.
However, with the respect Al-Kadhimi has among Saudi leaders and his acceptance by politicians in Iran, he will seek to achieve a breakthrough because he wants stability and a decline in violence in Iraq. However, that won’t happen as long as the Gulf remains tense.
• Hassan Al-Mustafa is a Saudi writer and researcher interested in Islamic movements, the development of religious discourse, and relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council states and Iran.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News