Iran and Saudi Arabia, long-standing regional rivals, have reached a significant diplomatic breakthrough that could help reduce tensions in the Middle East. The two countries, which have been in a state of hostility for the past seven years, have agreed to reestablish diplomatic relations and reopen embassies within two months.
The announcement, made during China’s National People’s Congress, is seen as a major diplomatic victory for China, which has been trying to assert itself as a global power and challenge the US-led Western liberal order. China is a top purchaser of Saudi oil and has been seeking to deepen its ties with Gulf Arab nations, which are crucial to its energy supplies.
The agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia could lower the risk of armed conflict, both directly and through proxy conflicts in the region, and could also help efforts to end the long-running war in Yemen. The UN has welcomed the agreement and thanked China for its role, while the US has welcomed any efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East.
The breakthrough comes despite long-standing religious and political differences between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as well as competing interests in other parts of the region. However, analysts suggest that Saudi Arabia’s acknowledgment that it cannot project power in the region without unconditional US backing has led to a dialing down of tensions with Iran.
While China’s involvement in the agreement is notable, it is worth noting that it does not provide the same military protections for Gulf Arab states as the US. Nonetheless, the fact that China was able to broker the deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia highlights its growing influence in the Middle East and its challenge to the US-led order.