The Saudi-Iran agreement could herald a new dawn of regional cooperation

Editorial credit: Claudio Divizia /

Veteran Arab journalist Abdel Bari Atwan says the recent Saudi-Iran reconciliation agreement to restore and improve relations could be the most important development in the Middle East in ten years and could change the whole region.

Friday’s agreement, under the sponsorship of China, to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs is good news for the Middle East and a massive setback for the U.S. and Israel.

I have always said to Arabs that Iran is our neighbour in the Arab world and that we must have good relations with it and desist from sectarian incitement. We are fellow Muslims and we cannot change our geography. We should support each other.

The agreement was signed by the Saudi and Iranian national security advisors – Generals Musaed Al-Ayban and Ali Shamkhani. Where? In Beijing. They sat down together and they talked from March 6-10. Nobody knew about the talks but they nevertheless formulated an agreement.

China deserves huge credit for sponsoring the talks – President Xi Jingpin is the man who has turned China into a superpower and boosted its economy. And he is now foiling the U.S. project in the region.

This Saudi-Iran agreement represents a revolution in the region’s diplomacy, economic and political ties, and neighbourly relations.

Israel has blackmailed the Gulf states by drawing them into the Abraham Accords by making them scared of Iran. Tel Aviv said to the Gulf countries: “Only we can protect you.” But Israel can’t even protect itself. Just look at it.

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Yet now the Gulf states are reaching out to Iran and are seeking good relations. The Saudi-Iran agreement specified no interference in internal affairs, extensive security cooperation and respect for sovereignty.

And given Saudi and Iran’s influence, this could spawn other agreements – such as a Saudi-Yemeni agreement to end the Yemen war. That would be such a blessing – an end to an eight year war that could enable the Yemeni people to revert to co-existence, or to at least live without bloodshed and in cooperation with Saudi Arabia which is a neighbour. It is in everyone’s interests that there be good relations between Riyadh and Sana’a.

The Yemenis are a great people; I know them well. They are one of the most pure and decent of peoples. The Saudis too – they share the same Arabian Peninsula from which most of us Arabs originated.

No one is more upset by this agreement than Israel; it’s in mourning. They were hoping to normalise relations with Saudi Arabia but when you have China, Russia and Iran who needs Israel? Or even the U.S.? This agreement is a stab in the back of the USA – Saudi Arabia, the major Gulf state, is flirting with the opposing axis – the Chinese, Russian, Brazilian, South African and BRICS.

This accord is also good for the Palestinian cause and will help us by altering the power balances in the region.

America does us no good; America has shafted us. I say this not out of love for Iran. I have no Iranian wife or grandmother or stake in Iran. I have never even visited Iran. But we have to look to the future and what is in our advantage.

In a few weeks time there will be an Arab summit held in Riyadh and it should be a summit of Arab entente and solidarity. I hope Saudi Arabia reverts to its role of seeking Arab solidarity on the basis of defending Al Aqsa and the Palestinian cause. This is what I hope will happen.

I think Saudi Arabia is taking the long-term approach. I also think there will be a meeting soon in Damascus with the Crown Prince because restoring relations with Iran may mean restoring relations with Syria. Fundamentally we are gearing towards regional and international reconciliation.

America has failed; America is the enemy of the Arabs. It has ruined and destroyed us. It destroyed Syria, Iraq and Yemen and other countries in the region. But we now face a new era; a new dawn.

This article was based on this Arabic speech by Abdel Bari Atwan.

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