0520 GMT February 18, 2019
Since President Hassan Rouhani took office in 2013, Iran has been seeking to ease tensions and patch up ties with regional and trans-regional countries.
However, some events have adversely impacted relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Consequently, Riyadh announced in January 2016 that it was severing diplomatic ties with Tehran.
Irrespective of differences over Syria and Yemen, the execution of Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr by the kingdom, a fatal stampede at Mina, near the holy city of Mecca, which led to the deaths of more than 2,000 pilgrims including hundreds of Iranians, as well as attacks on the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and its consulate in the northeastern city of Mashhad contributed to the severance of bilateral ties.
Nonetheless, reports suggest that Riyadh and Tehran are mending relations.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry said Saudi Arabia agreed to admit an Iranian diplomat to head an office representing Iranian interests in the kingdom.
According to the ministry, the office is expected to be set up within the Swiss diplomatic mission in Saudi Arabia, based on an agreement signed in 2017.
Reports say the head of the Oman and Yemen Department at Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Alibek has been appointed as the caretaker of the Islamic Republic’s interests section in the city of Jeddah.
Meanwhile, Imran Khan, who will likely become Pakistan’s next prime minister, has vowed to help settle differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Experts say that since Pakistan has established good ties with Tehran and Riyadh, Khan’s mediation will yield positive results.
The two regional powers are expected to resume low-level ties although tensions have escalated between them over the past weeks.
One the one hand, Saudis have supported Washington’s approach against the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). On the other hand, Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz if it cannot export its oil due to US sanctions.
Strained ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran are closely interlinked with the new strategy of the US government. This strategy has increased regional divisions and provided political and arms support for Iran’s enemies. Hence, Western-made weapons can be massively exported to the region. Saudi Arabia’s huge arms deal with the Trump administration is in line with this strategy.
Hadi Seyyed Afqahi, a political expert on the Middle East, believes the US wants Arab NATO to trigger a war against Iran. He says this is because Washington is aware that Tehran would respond in kind to its psychological war against the Islamic Republic.
Taleb al-Hassani, a Yemeni writer and analyst, has also commented on the formation of the coalition. He says these Persian Gulf countries know that they are controlled by the US and that they are not ready to get engaged in a war with Iran. He predicts a disastrous consequence for these nations if they enter into a war with Tehran.
Some of the regional countries are important to the US as long as they play the role of a cow being milked.
Sajjad Abedi, a defense-security expert, says the militarization of the Persian Gulf poses a threat to Iran’s security.
By arming the countries of the Persian Gulf, the US aims to force Iran to turn its military potential toward it southern neighbors.