Iran and Saudi Arabia announced that they reopened their embassies after seven years of contention, including the regional war in Yemen, where they advocated on opposite sides.
Since 2016 following the Saudi execution of revered Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, the ties severed between the two sides. Reportedly, the cooling of the geopolitical rivalry happened after a breakthrough negotiated with China.
Regional foes agreed to uphold “the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs of states.” This sharp turn in their approach towards each other has significant implications.
They also acknowledged that the foreign ministers of both countries would meet to implement and improve bilateral relations and that previous cooperation accords are. Namely, a “Security Cooperation Agreement” from 2001 and a “General Agreement for Cooperation” from 1998 covering the fields of trade, economy, sports, technology, science, culture, sports and youth, etc would sustain.
Some see this as a positive sign that Saudi-Iran reconciliation resumes after years and is getting support from regional players and global players like China to realign themselves and keep their differences aside. However, this wouldn’t immediately bridge the security issues and regional competition between the two countries.
According to the analysts, it’s a diplomatic achievement for the Chinese government and conveys to the Biden administration the role China plays in the Middle East. As the US is slowly withdrawing from the Gulf, US-Iran relations are next to bare minimum or non-existent, and China, a global giant, is taking that leverage and filling up that vacuum rather swiftly. Will China leech-off of the West Asian region through its ‘diplomacy’?
Observers have pointed out that for Iran, it is escaping isolation led by the west. For China, it is penetrating deep within the region and becoming more than a proactive participant. And for Saudi Arabia, it is about the Americans.
However, some experts feel that there is a lot of scepticism surrounding China. They feel that the international community overreacts to everything that China does these days. No doubt the Chinese government has its own interests in mind when it facilitates a Saudi-Iranian agreement, but that does not have to be taken as a challenge or a threat.
Nevertheless, even Americans are under scrutiny, especially after their chaotic departure from Afghanistan’s soil in 2021. It is viewed as a propagator of the regional arms and weapon race.
However, the world needs to see the mirror and accept the reality that China is one of the largest trading partners for most of countries, even with the most powerful countries. The aspiring economic hegemon has compelled the world to stop overlooking it and perceive it as a pivotal player in the economics and geopolitical equations in the regions, respectively. China has played its trump card quite well.
Is it that China has gone too far that it is challenging other decisive powers in the region and starting a competition over the strategic West Asian region? Does the wannabe economic hegemon, now for real, have set its path towards its ‘Middle Kingdom’ theory?