New Possibilities In Middle East Politics? – OpEd
On March 10, a special announcement aimed at easing the hostility between Saudi Arabia and Iran came from both sides.
China was the mediator of the talks held in Beijing. After four days of talks, two regional rivals in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia, have agreed to restore diplomatic ties.
This significant diplomatic shift is undoubtedly an important event for all countries, especially for the Middle East. Because in the current world situation, the political importance of the Middle East and the role of the two countries in regional security are immense.
It should be noted that the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia began to deteriorate from 2016. The deterioration of diplomatic relations between the two countries centered on the death of a religious leader in Iran. However, the two countries have long had ideological, political and Middle East antagonisms. The bitter relationship between the two countries intensified over the war in Yemen, and later, Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine added a new dimension to the whole situation.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to reopen their embassies, a joint statement released after talks in Beijing said. Both sides also agreed to respect each other’s sovereignty and not to interfere in each other’s affairs. So, the Saudi-Iran deal is a changing strategic situation and is indicative of changing geopolitics.
On the other hand, China’s role behind this massive political change is being highlighted very significantly. It can be said that the normalization of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia through the mediation of China is a new issue in world politics. On the other hand, this event is a diplomatic success for China, which has re-established the country as a superpower.
On the other hand, why China adopted this strategy and whether Saudi Arabia and Iran accepted China’s mediation, this has become an important question at the present time. This assurance between Saudi Arabia and Iran has come forward as part of China’s leading role in establishing world peace. On the other hand, gaining the credibility of both Saudi Arabia and Iran and bringing them to the negotiating table is undoubtedly a diplomatic victory for China.
Recently there has been a shift in various regional alliances and we are witnessing a renewed presence of superpowers at the regional level. Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the United States has been strained in recent times. China, on the other hand, is moving forward with various efforts to strengthen its position across the Middle East. By strengthening economic relations, China continues to strengthen diplomatic relations with countries in the region. On the other hand, in the international reality, we can see that the two countries have become weak in their internal affairs as a result of long-term military operations and mutual negative relations centered on the Yemen war.
However, this agreement has been welcomed in Iran. The country’s senior officials hailed the agreement as a step towards reducing tensions and strengthening regional security. In addition, it has been mentioned in Iranian media that this agreement indicates the “defeat” of the Western world and Israel. It should be noted that Iran is suffering economically due to the Western blockade and currently a group centered on a movement has destabilized the ongoing politics of Iran.
China has been Iran’s largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years from 2012 to 2022. In 2022, Sino-Iranian trade amounted to 15.8 billion US dollars, up 7 percent from the previous year. As a result, China’s exports to Iran increased by 14 percent to 9.44 billion US dollars in 2022 compared to 2021. This indicates Iran’s good relations with China. This is basically what has made Iran sit at the negotiating table. It is also a way out of the current situation.
On the other hand, China is Saudi Arabia’s largest trading partner. In December 2022, China exported $3.54 billion worth of goods to Saudi Arabia and China imported $5.67 billion worth of goods from Saudi Arabia. The positive stance of the Saudi government in negotiations with Iran through the mediation of China is understandable. China is the world’s largest buyer of crude oil, and the country imports more oil from Saudi Arabia than any other source. China’s crude oil imports accounted for nearly half of the $87.3 billion in bilateral trade between the two countries in 2021, accounting for 77 percent of China’s total imports from Saudi Arabia. In contrast, Saudi Arabia imported more than $30 billion worth of goods from China in 2022, including technological equipment, telephones and other equipment.
Saudi Arabia’s role in Middle East politics is considered the most important. A country’s foreign policy influences regional and even global policy. Prince Mohammed bin Salman has outlined a radical change in Saudi Arabia targeting the year 2030. In this regard, regional cooperation is a regulator, which is why the Saudi government wants to maintain good relations with Iran. Saudi Arabia is already facing a great economic pressure due to the war in Yemen. Added to this is the ongoing global economic crisis, which has put the Saudi economy under a strain. Therefore, the importance of China’s mediation is understood.
However, through this change, the role of the Middle East in the world will increase. On the other hand, China is going to play a new role in international politics. For China, this diplomatic success will act as a game changer, challenging the influence of the Western world in Middle East politics. Besides, this agreement is an unprecedented achievement for China in filling the strategic vacuum left by the US and Russia and emerging as a reliable global partner.
Good relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran are crucial for the peace and security of the entire Middle East, which will bring to the fore the role of diplomatic settlement in moving the region to a conflict-free state in the coming days and resolving the ongoing crises. Such peacemaking may see changes in other unresolved regional issues as well. In fact, this agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran will be an example in solving various crises in the future.
In the coming days, Saudi-Iranian relations will be tested depending on regional and global developments. Israel’s pressure on the US, the course of Iran-Europe relations, and Iran’s sincerity and goodwill will determine the deal’s future. Along with this, there is a cautious step by Saudi Arabia. On the other hand, if Saudi Arabia and Iran work together, we will soon see an end to something like the Yemen war, which will undoubtedly be a victory for global humanity. In addition, China’s diplomatic success and this new strategy and agreement to establish peace in regional politics have created a new arena for China’s competition with the Western world. However, these equations depend mainly on the successful implementation of this agreement.