Iran’s Normalization Of Diplomatic Relations With Saudi Arabia: A New Setback? – OpEd


To understand the Iranian regime’s actions at the domestic and international levels, it is important to pay attention to the fact that the determinant of all the Iranian regime’s actions is the uprising that it has been struggling with for more than 190 days.

In mid-February 2019, rebellious youth shook the pillars of the regime for what reasons. More than 1,500 youths were killed by direct fire before the regime was able to control the uprising.

According to the assessments of the Iranian regime’s intelligence services, another uprising was expected in the summer of the same year, this time, of course, more intense. But Covid-19 came. Khamenei called it a blessing. And by declaring it forbidden to import authentic vaccines from Western countries, he was able to postpone this uprising for two years, at the cost of half a million deaths, of course. 

Finally, post-Covid-19 has arrived. Khamenei, with the surgery of one faction of the government, the so-called reformists, installed Ibrahim Raisi, who is very notorious for his participation in the 1988 massacre, as president in 2021. In little more than a year, Raisi had face the crushing waves of the uprising.

The shocking and needless death of Mahsa Amini by the vice Patrol in September 2022 exploded Iran like an ember in a barrel of gunpowder, and slogans like “death to the dictatorship” and “death to Khamenei” swept the nation. 

More than six months and ten days have passed since the Iranian uprising. And this uprising continues with more power and more organization. The unprecedented repression and the torture, killing and arrest of 30,000 people have not prevented the revolution from continuing.

Two Drivers of the Revolution

One is the explosive situation of society, such as poverty, high prices, unemployment, etc. It is said that 80% of the society is below the poverty line. In the last six months, the value of the national currency has dropped by half. And people are getting poorer and poorer. And the reason for this situation is mainly structural and caused by rampant corruption. Iran’s economy is collapsing.

And the other revolutionary driver is the hundreds of units of resistance. They grew by more than 500% during the revolution.

Khamenei is not willing to reform in any area, because any reform requires a little freedom, and that is anathema to the nature of dictatorship. In his last speech, Khamenei described the Iranian people’s calls for structural changes and transformations to as madness and words of the enemies. During this six months, the people have shown that they want to replace the Velayat al-Faqih system with a democratic government at any cost. Thus, this confrontation is approaching its final point.

Normalization of Relations with Saudi Arabia

According to the newspaper Donyaye Ekhtesad on March 13, 2023, “If the revolutionary discourse is still on the agenda of the government, we must say that an agreement with Saudi Arabia cannot be in favor of Iran.” In recent years, Saudi Arabia has established extensive relations with “China” and “Russia,” and in this case we should also mention the Saudis’ closeness to “America.” Pay attention to the fact that the role of Saudi Arabia in the normalization of relations between the Arab world and Israel is very colorful. This closeness can be seen as a threat to Tehran…

“But if the Iranian government puts reconciliation diplomacy on the agenda, it must be accountable to the international community. This means that in the future, Iran will accept the pressure of America, Europe, Israel, the Arab world, etc., regarding the regional situation, but if the established government still wants to talk to the world with revolutionary literature, we will witness challenges.” 

Kamal Kharazi, Iran’s former foreign minister and the current head of the Foreign Relations Steering Council, expresses his concern about the serious arrangement of the region. He says, “Unfortunately, we are witnessing the normalization of relations of some governments in the region with Israel. The normalization of relations with the Israeli regime and the opening of this regime to the Persian Gulf region is a betrayal of the cause of Palestine and the people of this region. Israel has no other goal but to create tension in the region. Undoubtedly, Iran will continue to confront this apartheid and illegitimate regime and will deal with any move that threatens Iran and the countries of the region.”

The proximity of neighboring Arab countries to Israel and the isolation of Khamenei can completely tip the balance in favor of the Iranian people in the event of a possible Israeli attack on Iran and make the regime face a greater threat. From this point of view, Khamenei is trying to get the attention of neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia to prevent this country and other Arab countries from getting close to Israel and somehow prevent a possible attack. Accepting International Atomic Energy Agency head Rafael Grossi and meeting his demands, as well as stopping the export of drones to Russia as of mid-February, can all be understood and explained in this context.

Will the regime continue to pursue a “revolutionary discourse” or a “discourse of reconciliation”?

In his last speech on the first day of the Iranian New Year, Khamenei called the words of those who called for structural change and transformation within the regime to avoid overthrow madness and the words of enemies. Therefore, the regime will never talk about reconciliation. How can a regime that chemically attacks its girls’ schools be expected to engage in a discourse of reconciliation that requires a modicum of democracy?

For example, in forty-three years, the regime has never stopped executions, except sometimes to avoid condemnation by the United Nations Human Rights Commission or… In this way, the regime tries to show that it has a compromise with the Arab and neighboring countries to avoid the danger of overthrow and uprising.

In the same way, it is unlikely that it will stop supporting the militias and allow peace and tranquility to be established in neighboring countries such as Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, or Yemen. But to avoid an immediate overthrow, limited and cunning tactical retreats by the regime are not far off.

Hamid Enayat

Hamid Enayat is an Iranian human rights activist and analyst based in Europe.

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