SAUDI-IRAN TALKS OFFER HOPE OF RECONCILIATION

SAUDI-IRAN TALKS OFFER HOPE OF RECONCILIATION

The Financial Times has revealed that Iraq’s leadership is at the centre of talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran; apparently intended to defuse longstanding regional rivalry and shift the geopolitical dynamics of the region.  The talks are being orchestrated by Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.  The first meeting is reported to have taken place on 9 April. 

The Saudi delegation was led by intelligence chief General Khaled bin Ali al-Humaida and the Iranian delegation was headed by national security council secretary General Ali Shamkhani. It is obvious that any reduction of tension between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be a boon for Iraq, let alone a full reconciliation for the region.  Moreover, it seems likely that any improvement in relations between Riyadh and Tehran would benefit the rest of the Gulf states which have traditionally traded with Iran but have also limited political connections and economic activities due to international sanctions placed on Iran. 

It also seems that an improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran would help Europe, not only by improving the chances of restoring the JCPOA and therefore reducing the very unwelcome threat of a nuclear-armed Iran close to NATO’s southern flank, but also because it would be likely to give real impetus to renewed trade between Europe and the rest of the MENA region.

If any kind of bilateral rapprochement emerges from these recent talks, it seems that it will be a most welcome development. Measures that bring future stability to the region are welcomed for improving security as well as prosperity for the Gulf, Iran, and the wider world. The Middle East has become a byword for regional turbulence and conflict.  At the same time, the Gulf states have emerged both as welcome centres of stability and as emerging economic powerhouses eager to play a full part in the emerging opportunities offered by the 4th Industrial Revolution. Efforts by the regional opponents to build more constructive relations are to be supported.