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<strong>Changing Global Order in Middle East</strong>


Saudi-Iran relations have been in hot waters since decades due to various political, religious, and economic factors. However, in the recent history, the two longtime great oil-producing rivals, who had been fighting a protracted proxy war in the Middle East, have reached at a major diplomatic breakthrough through Beijing. Both countries decided to re-establish their diplomatic ties and defuse tensions. The deal comes as Iran accelerates its nuclear program after two years of US failure to revive a 2015 deal aimed at preventing Tehran from building a nuclear bomb. In recent times, there have been some indications of a possible thaw in Saudi-Iran relations. In September 2021, reports emerged that Saudi Arabia and Iran had held talks in Baghdad, the first direct talks between the two countries in over four years. The discussions reportedly focused on regional security issues, including Yemen and Iraq. Since then, there have been other signs of a possible rapprochement between the two countries, including the exchange of messages between the two countries' leaders.

These efforts have been complicated by a crackdown by Iranian authorities on protests and harsh US sanctions against Tehran over allegations of human rights abuses.  This state of affairs played a significant role in strengthening Beijing-Tehran bilateral ties. Riyadh's move toward reconciliation with Iran is also being driven by the Crown Prince's Vision 2030, which envisions diversifying the kingdom's oil-dependent economy by attracting foreign investment and eventually leading to the cultural openness.

Meanwhile, bilateral ties between Beijing and Tehran have strengthened in recent years due to increased US sanctions against the Islamic Republic. China sees Iran as strategically important in the changing regional politics. In 2021, China agreed to invest more than $40 billion in infrastructure development in exchange for oil. The Iranian president received an enthusiastic reception when he visited Beijing earlier this year.  The détente occurs at a time when America and China, the world's two superpowers, are growing more competitive, raising the possibility of a new Cold War. The accord shows how China is mainlining influence more and more in one of the most unstable parts of the world. It also emphasizes how the world order is altering, with China taking center stage.

The deal that the two parties struck last week in Beijing is viewed by many analysts as a reflection of the US's waning influence in the area. Though on one hand, it can be anticipated that the Chinese diplomacy has greatly benefited from the unexpected warming of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran; yet it is nigh difficult to predict the future of US dominance as it is just one of many complex factors at play. If Saudi-Iran relations were to improve significantly, it could potentially lead to a more stable and cooperative Middle East, which could indirectly benefit US interests. But the deal could affect US-led efforts to economically isolate Iran through sanctions. It is a big diplomatic setback for US, as American policy was to bring Israel closer to Saudi Arabia but China has entered the Middle East as new player. If one reads and analyses Saudi foreign policy, it is moving towards an independent direction which might not need any more dictation from the US. Since America’s interference has reduced in the region, it has created an opening for China to step in. It is important to note that US dominance is not solely dependent on its relationship with Saudi Arabia or Iran, but rather on a variety of economic, political, and military factors. While the US has been a dominant global superpower for many decades, the rise of other major powers such as China and Russia could also impact the future of US dominance.

The deal does not necessarily mean a change in Saudi Arabia's approach to the Palestinian conflict, which Israel has been warned is heading towards fomenting dangerous bloodshed.
However the deal will worry many Israeli politicians who have sought global isolation for Iran. Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called the deal a "serious and dangerous" development. It said it was a "fatal blow to efforts to build a regional alliance" against the Islamic Republic. The reality is that Saudi Arabia and Iran cannot change their status as neighbors in the region and must find a way to live together and respect each other's red lines. The agreement may not put a stop to the two regional powers' bitter rivalry, but it can certainly put an end to strife and pave the path for peaceful conflict settlement in the area. While it is too early to predict the outcome of these developments, it is important to closely monitor the situation and its potential impact. Any significant changes in these relations can have far-reaching implications, both positive and negative for the Middle East, such the de-escalation of the history-long conflicts across the region, a lessening of sectarian strife, the stabilization of oil prices, and a shift in regional alliances.

The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement could also bring peace to Yemen, while also helping to stabilize Lebanon and Iraq, since both the former have influence in the latter two. It is hoped that the Islamic internal relations would also greatly benefit from improved links between the two.