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Iran-Saudi Arabia Resume Diplomatic Relations, Thanks to China

China brokered the deal, Iran-Saudi Arabia to Restore Diplomatic Relations

After years of tension, Iran and Saudi Arabia have announced the restoration of their diplomatic relationships. This also means that after seven years of the 2016 debacle when both countries had closed their respective embassies, the embassies will be reopened. The restoration of the deal has been possible with the help of China which has directly been involved in the talks. The deal was also finalised in Beijing, signalling the waning role of the United States in the region. 

Historical Background 

Iran and Saudi Arabia have had a complex relationship, characterised by political and religious differences. 2016 was seen as the year when the formal relationship between the two countries broke down, and the seeds of tension were long present. 

The two countries have different interpretations of Islam, with Iran being predominantly Shia and Saudi Arabia being predominantly Sunni. The Iranian revolution in 1979 challenged Saudi Arabia’s leadership role in the Islamic world, leading to tensions between the two countries.

In 2016, Iran and Saudi Arabia engaged in a diplomatic dispute that led to the closure of their respective embassies. The dispute was sparked by the execution of a prominent Shia cleric by the Saudi government, which led to protests in Iran and other Shia-majority countries. In response, the Saudi government severed diplomatic ties with Iran, and several Sunni-majority countries followed suit.

Proxy Wars

While the two countries were not directly involved in a war, they both were responsible for supporting militants to fuelling proxy wars. Both countries have provided support to militant groups in other countries to advance their interests. Saudi Arabia has supported Sunni militant groups in Syria and Yemen, while Iran has supported Shia militant groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen.

Role of China

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China’s engagement with the Middle East Gulf countries has grown significantly in recent years, driven by its expanding economic interests and its desire to increase its geopolitical influence in the region. China’s growing influence in the region has significant implications for the Gulf countries’ geopolitics, challenging the traditional dominance of the United States in the region. This is especially important in light of the growing tensions between China and the U.S. as they both compete to become strong global players.

As China played a major role in ensuring a peaceful agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, it puts the Biden administration in a tight spot. This deal also establishes China as a strong and powerful player in the region as proved by the support and favour it is gaining.

After the US withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in 2018, Iran has begun to take steps to restart its nuclear program, including increasing uranium enrichment and reducing compliance with the deal’s requirements. So while the two countries have resumed diplomatic relations, it is important that Iran also keeps a check on its nuclear powers and it does not lead to a clash between the two countries in the future.

Restoration of Diplomatic Relations With Maldives

After the announcement of the restoration of Iran- Saudi Arabia, Abdulla Shahid, Foreign Minister of Maldives tweeted-

Maldives had followed Saudi Arabia in cutting ties with Iran back in 2016. 

It will be interesting to see how this will shape the geopolitical situation in the Gulf further and how China and the US will deal with the growing fight to become world leaders.

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Harshita Bajaj

Harshita has a background in Psychology and Criminology and is currently pursuing her PhD in Criminology. She can be found reading crime thrillers (or any other book for that matter) or binge-watching shows on Netflix when she is not in hibernation.
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