Chinese broker deal reuniting Iran and Saudi Arabia, American influence lags

After seven years of tensions, Iran and Saudi Arabia signed a joint statement with Chinese help to re-establish their diplomatic ties within two months.

The deal took the world by surprise as it was made without any Western involvement and it is called the Joint Trilateral Statement by the People’s Republic of China, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. 

The agreement struck between Iran and Saudi Arabia will re-establish relations has shifted concerns back to the state of the U.S. role in the Middle East — especially since the deal was brokered by Washington’s main adversary, China.

The diplomatic agreement, reached after four days of talks with senior security officials in Beijing, eases tensions between the Middle East powers after seven years of hostilities.

“The reestablishment of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia is not in itself a seismic event; they broke off relations only seven years ago,” said CNN anchor Fareed Zakaria, who blamed American inflexibility for the United States being upstaged by China on this important diplomatic front. “But last week’s revelation exposes a deep-seated flaw in American foreign policy, one that has gotten worse in recent years.”

In a letter from King Salman, Saudi Arabia invited Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi for an official visit just over a week since the countries agreed to restore diplomatic relations.

Saudi Arabia is the fifth-largest country in Asia and the second-largest in the Arab world, and it has a population that is comprised of about 84 percent Sunni Muslims. The population of Iran is composed of about 90% to 95% Shia Islam, which is the official state religion.

China agreed to host talks between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, “Proceeding from their shared desire to resolve the disagreements between them through dialogue and diplomacy, and in light of their brotherly ties.”

Delegations from the two countries held talks from March 6-10, 2023 in Beijing.

The Saudi delegation was headed by Dr. Musaid bin Mohammed Al-Aiban, the National Security adviser, Minister of State and member of the Council of Ministers of Saudi Arabia.

The Iranian delegation was led by Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran.

The three countries said the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and Iran includes a provision to resume diplomatic relations and re-open their embassies within two months, an affirmation of respect for their sovereignty and a pledge to not interfere in each other’s internal affairs.

They also agreed to return their ambassadors, discuss means of enhancing bilateral relations, and implement the Security Cooperation Agreement between they signed in 2001, along with the General Agreement for Cooperation in the Fields of Economy, Trade, Investment, Technology, Science, Culture, Sports, and Youth, which was signed in 1998.

The UN Secretary-General welcomed the agreement reached between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and praised the People’s Republic of China, the Sultanate of Oman and the Republic of Iraq, for promoting dialogue between the two countries.

A year in from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war is entering a transitional phase that appear set to end in stalemate. Both sides have suffered heavy losses but they are unlikely to agree to concessions.

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