Seven years after their relations were broken, Saudi Arabia and Iran, the two major oil-producing competitors of the Middle East, have agreed to mend fences by reopening their embassies. The Saudi-Iran Deal is being said to bring the Middle East “Security, Stability” and have global implications. It is unexpected that the accord was signed in China because negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran on a future reconciliation had been ongoing for years, primarily in Iraq. After meetings held in Beijing under Chinese mediation, the Saudi-Iran deal was sealed.
According to a joint statement, Iran and Saudi Arabia “agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies… within two months” as a result of the negotiations, Iran’s national news agency said.
A video showing Ali Shamkhani, the council’s secretary, chatting with a Saudi official and China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, was posted by Nour News, a website affiliated with Iran’s supreme national security council. “After implementing the decision, the foreign ministers of both nations will meet to prepare for exchange of ambassadors,” Iranian state television said.
Why had Saudi and Iran Cut Diplomatic Ties?
Following the killing of a renowned Shia cleric and preacher Nimr al-Nimar, Iranian protestors attacked Saudi diplomatic offices in Iran in 2016, leading to a deepening sectarian rift between Riyadh and Tehran causing Sadi and Iran to cut ties. The Saudi Arabian government’s killing of the renowned Shia preacher had drawn criticism from the Iranian government and Middle Eastern religious authorities, who threatened the country’s royal family with consequences. The execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr sparked widespread outrage, according to councils and clerics in Iran, Yemen, and Lebanon, which significantly heightened religious and diplomatic tensions in the area.
In recent years, the rivalry between predominantly Sunni Saudi Arabia and predominantly Shia Iran, has dominated Middle East affairs and spread to Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen.
Why Does the Saudi-Iran Deal Send Shockwaves to Israel?
The announcement of the reconciliation between longtime opponents Saudi Arabia and Iran on March 12, sent shockwaves through the Middle East and struck a symbolic blow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has made countering the threat presented by Tehran a top priority in his public diplomacy efforts. He has presented himself as the sole leader capable of shielding Israel from Iran’s nuclear program, which according to him is expanding quickly, as well as from Iranian proxies in the region, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Reports claim that Israeli-linked ships transporting supplies in the Persian Gulf have been targeted by suspected Iranian drone strikes, among other attacks, as a result of Israel and Iran’s ongoing regional shadow war.
Netanyahu’s normalization agreements with four Arab nations, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, in 2020 remain one of his greatest diplomatic victories. They were part of an overall strategy to oppose and isolate Iran in the area.
Earlier Netanyahu and his allies made hints that a deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be close since taking office late last year. Last month, Netanyahu said in an address to American Jewish leaders that a peace deal was “a goal that we are working on in parallel with the goal of stopping Iran.” However, experts claim that such plans have been dashed by the Saudi-Iran agreement that was unveiled on Friday.
Israel is essentially on its own as it spearheads efforts to diplomatically isolate Iran and makes threats of an unprovoked military attack against Iran’s nuclear facilities as a result of Saudi Arabia’s choice to cooperate with its regional opponent Iran. Additionally, the UAE and Iran reestablished official ties last year.
Israel and Netanyahu baffled over Saudi-Iran Deal
The Saudi-Iran deal led to not just disappointment but also finger-pointing in Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu has been baffled over the Saudi Iranian deal and blamed Yair Lapid and Naftali Bennett’s previous administration in Israel, as well as U.S. President Biden. When negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran got underway a year ago, Netanyahu charged that they failed to take a firm enough stance.
Danny Danon, a Netanyahu ally and former Israeli ambassador to the U.N. who recently predicted a peace agreement with Saudi Arabia in 2023, seemed disconcerted.
“This is not supporting our efforts,” he said when asked about whether the rapprochement hurt chances for the kingdom’s recognition of Israel.
“It’s a blow to Israel’s notion and efforts in recent years to try to form an anti-Iran bloc in the region,” said Yoel Guzansky, an expert on the Persian Gulf at the Institute for National Security Studies, an Israeli think tank. “If you see the Middle East as a zero-sum game, which Israel and Iran do, a diplomatic win for Iran is very bad news for Israel.”.
Saudi Iran Deal Causes a Blow to the Abraham Accords
Additionally, Israel is also worried that the Saudi-Iran deal can cause a blow to the Abraham Accords signed on Sept. 15, 2020, which normalized diplomatic relations among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and, potentially, Sudan. Because the Saudi-Iran deal challenges the Abraham Accords’ most fundamental justification, there is currently a sense of discontent across the Israeli political spectrum. Israelis and Americans can make all the claims they want about the Accords being peace treaties, which they are not, or about the economic advantages. The main goals of the Accords, however, were expanded Arab state access to American weapons and coordination, as well as an Israeli-Arab coalition against Iran.
That framework provided Israel with the solution it had been looking for for years, which is the normalization with the Arab world without giving the Palestinians their freedoms and rights. The Saudi-Iran deal causes a blow to the Abraham Accords because it will fail Israel’s attempts to isolate Iran from the middle eastern countries. While the Saudi-Iran Deal has the potential to make shifts in both regional and global politics, it could also mean a lot less than it initially anticipated.