• Monday, November 18, 2019

Saudi Arabia and Iran may finally be ready for rapprochement

Discussion in 'Arab Defence Forum' started by HalfMoon, Oct 20, 2019.

  1. HalfMoon

    HalfMoon BANNED

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  2. Philip the Arab

    Philip the Arab SENIOR MEMBER

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    Really? Not posting it, and AlJazeera?

    Saudi Arabia and Iran may finally be ready for rapprochement

    To achieve peaceful co-existence, however, both regional powers need to make significant compromises.
    [​IMG]
    by Imad K Harb
    16 Oct 2019

    [​IMG]

    The Iranian-owned oil tanker that was hit in Red Sea waters off the coast of Saudi Arabia on October 11 is seen two days after the incident [WANA via Reuters]


    The October 11 attack on an Iranian oil tanker in Red Sea waters off the coast of Saudi Arabia stoked further friction in a region rattled by attacks on tankers and oil installations since May and increased fears of war between Riyadh and Tehran.

    Thus far, no one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Tehran, despite its history of swiftly blaming the United States and Israel for any perceived sabotage of its interests, refrained from accusing any specific party. The National Iranian Tanker Company (NITC), which owns the targeted vessel, confirmed that its hull was hit by two separate explosions off the Saudi port of Jeddah, but made a point of denying reports that the attack had originated from Saudi soil. Furthermore, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary-general of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said that a committee is investigating the incident to determine culpability. All this shows that Iran wants to de-escalate the tension over something that, in comparison to other confrontations between the regional rivals in recent years, from Yemen to Syria, can only be described as a minor incident.

    Still, only time will tell how the attack will impact the general atmosphere in the already-volatile Gulf region and the wider Middle East. What is apparent, however, is that the current state of uncertainty, mistrust and confusion cannot be sustained if Iran wants to rejoin the international community after decades of isolation and if Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies seek further economic and social development. Only a return to quiet and purposeful diplomacy - with the assistance of third parties - can bridge differences between the two sides and help prevent what could arguably be one of the most calamitous military confrontations in the region's history.

    Saudi Arabia is not interested in a confrontation
    It is improbable that Saudi Arabia is behind the attack on the Iranian tanker, despite its assumed desire to avenge the many attacks it sustained over the last few months.
    On September 14, for example, attacks on two of its main oil production facilities knocked out more than half of the kingdom's production. Yemen's Houthi rebels claimed responsibility but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo swiftly accused Iran, which rejected the allegations. In light of all this, some argued that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS), who has come under much domestic criticism for failing to prevent the devastating attacks on the country's oil facilities, might have ordered the attack on the Iranian oil tanker to save face.

    This scenario, however, is highly improbable since a small-scale attack on an Iranian tanker like the one we witnessed last week is unlikely to yield significant positive results for MBS. First, if Iran concludes that Riyadh is indeed behind such an attack, it can easily find many overt and secret ways to retaliate. MBS is well aware that if he orders an attack on an Iranian vessel, he would be opening the kingdom to renewed attacks by Houthi insurgents.

    Second, despite the ongoing friction between the two sides, Riyadh does not want to rule out the possibility of a rapprochement with Tehran in the near future. MBS was clear, in a recent interview with CBS, about his preference for a political solution to the region's ongoing problems. Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan's visits this week to Iran and Saudi Arabia can only be seen as an effort at reconciliation that he could not have undertaken without a green light from the leaders of both countries. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdel-Mahdi is also known to have relayed messages between MBS and Iranian officials about de-escalation.

    Third, Saudi Arabia can no longer count on Washington's direct assistance in the event of a confrontation with Iran. Whatever existed of Saudi enthusiasm for such a confrontation has dissipated after US President Donald Trump aborted the mission to punish Tehran over its downing of an American spy drone last June. His latest decision to allow Turkey to attack Kurdish forces allied with the US and responsible for defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group in northeastern Syria also gave the Saudis a signal that allies are not immune to Trump's whimsical foreign policy. The Saudi leadership cannot ignore the US president's reluctance to take on Iran and his betrayal of allies simply because he agreed to dispatch extra American troops to Saudi Arabia.

    Iran cannot remain a pariah in the region
    Despite the defiant rhetoric emanating from its leaders and institutions, the Islamic Republic is also interested in a rapprochement with Saudi Arabia. Tehran understands that it cannot remain outside the confines of regional and international systems. It also understands that it needs to make compromises, both in the region and in the international arena, to find necessary accommodations. To be sure, its signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015 clearly signalled its willingness to meet the international community's expectations if that helps it in preserving national pride and interests and escaping debilitating sanctions.

    However, on the regional front, Iran's insistence on interfering in the domestic affairs of Arab countries continues to stymie its good relations with its neighbours. To be sure, no other outside force has been able to secure the kind of influence that Iran maintains in Iraq and Lebanon. Yemen's Houthis, meanwhile, have become closer to Iran than ever before and have benefited from Iranian technology in manufacturing offensive weapons used against Saudi Arabia over the last few years. But Iran's role in Syria's war is the starkest example of overreach that makes it impossible for Tehran to join the current Saudi-led regional order. It is this last important part of Iran's regional policy that stands at the heart of its acrimonious relationship with Saudi Arabia, and it is here that the two may or may not find a compromise.

    Iranian officials have for quite some time now spoken of their desire for Iran to be considered a normal part of the regional subsystem, bearing equal responsibilities and sharing collective benefits. In a recent op-ed, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic's view that "security in the region is a collective responsibility" and that "either everyone is safe or everyone is deprived of it." No one can find much fault with Zarif's statements, however, such words will only gain meaning and lead to meaningful change if Iran takes concrete steps to demonstrate that it is ready to respect the sovereignty of Arab states and in return, the Arab side agrees to treat Iran as an equal shareholder in the region's affairs.

    What is to come?
    In the current atmosphere of uncertainty and mistrust, it is hard to accurately postulate what could be in store for Saudi-Iranian relations. But both Riyadh and Tehran have recently been talking about the dangers of escalation and expressing their desire to find a compromise that would allow for the two regional powers to peacefully co-exist. This, above anything else, signals a real possibility for sustainable peace in the Gulf. Friendly but neutral third parties can also assist in finding the means to bridge differences that have stymied a closer relationship between arguably the two most consequential states in the Muslim world.

    One thing is sure, however: peaceful co-existence can only work if Tehran scales down its interference in the affairs of Arab states and Riyadh accepts that Iran also has a say in regional issues. Iran should not expect to be allowed to continue controlling the fates of Iraq and Lebanon through affiliated militias or supporting the Houthis in their assault on Yemen's legitimate authority. It should also understand that it cannot re-join the regional system while insisting on supporting the thuggish regime of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. Reciprocally, Saudi Arabia must understand that Iran is of the region and that it cannot simply be excluded from the region's development. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia's apparent eagerness to de-escalate the situation following the October 11 attack on an Iranian tanker is perhaps the most significant sign yet that the two regional rivals are finally ready for a rapprochement. Peaceful co-existence, however, is difficult and requires the will to talk and compromise. If either party shows reluctance to change its ways, the region will continue to live with the possibility of a war that could make all past wars look minor in comparison.

    The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.
    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    [​IMG]
    Imad K Harb

    Imad K Harb is Director of Research and Analysis at Arab Center Washington DC.
     
  3. Genghis khan1

    Genghis khan1 SENIOR MEMBER

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    Iran needs a regimen change. Saudis (GCC in general)are bribing US and UK with Billions of dollars worth of Defence deals but when it comes to taking care of the job, West was on the table for free drinks only “Drinking buddies”.

    So, What do IK or Pakistan get out of it for running left and right. let them fight and sought it out.

    Sooner or later, Saudis will turn to Pakistan for cheaper cost effective defense equipment. Or in case of regimes change in Iran, Pakistan can market stuff to Iran.
     
  4. Longhorn

    Longhorn FULL MEMBER

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    Why is it just Iran that needs regime change.
    Why not Saudi Arabia as well?
     
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  5. Genghis khan1

    Genghis khan1 SENIOR MEMBER

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    Because Saudis aren’t waiting for any imam Medhi hidden inside cave or a well ready to come out at any moment and take over Kaaba and unleash hell on (Sunnis) in general Saudis. Neither they have any expansionists dream and are not disgruntled about the lost glory of their persian empire, again due to Sunni Khalifa ( in general Saudis).
     
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  6. Shapur Zol Aktaf

    Shapur Zol Aktaf SENIOR MEMBER

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    Concentrate on your kashmir issue and prevent polio comeback in Pakistan, don't dream about creating troubles for Iran.
     
  7. Genghis khan1

    Genghis khan1 SENIOR MEMBER

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    How about you concentrate on rationing some food before your mullah run out of left over food reserves.

    upload_2019-10-26_18-58-53.jpeg
     
  8. Shapur Zol Aktaf

    Shapur Zol Aktaf SENIOR MEMBER

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    Even if the holy ones come back on earth, they'll not be able to defeat Iran by sanctions. Iran has the most severe sanctions a country ever has received, but lets read the facts. The sanctions are having a positive effect in long term:
    • Since January 2016, Suleimani—the subject of U.S. and U.N. sanctions—has seen his favorability rating at home increase from 72.7 percent of respondents to 81.6 percent in August 2019.
    • Iranians now overwhelming view the United States (86 percent) unfavorably, favoring relations with countries such as China (58 percent), Germany (55 percent), Japan (70 percent), and Russia (57 percent). A whopping 66 percent of Iranian respondents believe “America is a dangerous country that seeks confrontation and control.”
    • There is overwhelming support—92 percent—for the continued development of ballistic missiles, and 61 percent of Iranians believe that developing more advanced ballistic missiles decreases the risk of a foreign attack, making Iranians safer. There was also overwhelming support for Iran’s foreign military activities, with some 61 percent saying they believed Iran should keep its military in Syria and 48 percent expressing confidence that Iran can solve its problems by becoming the most powerful country in the region.
    • At first glance, this seems to support the Trump administration’s claims that its “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign is bringing the Iranian economy to the brink of collapse. But this view is challenged by the IMF’s projection that the decline will halt in 2020, when Iran’s economy will rebound to zero growth—despite the sanctions.
    • The most obvious sign of the recovery is the rebounding rial. Since May, the Iranian currency has appreciated 40% against the dollar.
    • The rebound in manufacturing has helped the Tehran Stock Exchange acquire the unlikely mantle as the world’s best-performing exchange over the past year.
    • Iran’s non-oil exports are projected to reach a record level of over $40 billion this year. The result of an effort by the government and private sector to boost regional trade, this may be the first year in Iran’s modern history that non-oil exports will exceed oil exports, which will be constrained to around $10 billion following the Trump administration’s revocation of key sanctions waivers in May.
    • A structural adjustment towards non-oil exports is taking place. It is often overlooked that the oil industry has rarely accounted for more than 20% of GDP. Iran is not in fact an oil economy.

    https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/a...s-economic-resiliency-makes-talks-more-likely
    https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/25/trump-iran-america-opinion-poll-nuclear/