Expert: Tehran, Riyadh Can't Afford to Ignore Each Other
EghtesadOnline: Iran and Saudi Arabia should choose the path of cooperation because they cannot afford to ignore each other in the region, a senior political analyst says.
"We should accept the reality that we cannot change Saudi Arabia and Saudi Arabia cannot relocate Iran from the region. These two countries have to cooperate and interact with each other," Sabah Zanganeh said at a recent meeting held in Tehran to discuss Tehran-Riyadh relations, ISNA reported.
The kingdom severed diplomatic relations after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following the execution of eminent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr without due process in Saudi Arabia in January 2016.
Saudi authorities welcomed US President Donald Trump's decision last year to withdraw the United States from an international nuclear agreement with Iran and reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran, Financial Tribune reported.
However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman voiced support for a political solution to settle disputes with Iran during a recent interview with CBS. He also welcomed the possibility of a meeting between Trump and President Hassan Rouhani.
In response, Parliament Speaker Ali Larijani told Aljazeera that Tehran is open to the idea of starting a dialogue with Saudi Arabia, adding that it could solve many of the region's security and political problems.
The New York Times recently quoted officials of Iraq and Pakistan as saying that the Saudi crown prince had asked the leaders of those two countries in recent weeks to speak with their Iranian counterparts about de-escalation.
In a statement to the paper, the Saudi government acknowledged that Iraq and Pakistan had offered to mediate talks between the two countries, without acknowledging that bin Salman had taken the initiative.
Zanganeh, Iran's former envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and an expert on Middle East affairs, said Tehran believes that regional countries can make progress only if peace and stability prevails in the region.
"Iran is not seeking war … but will defend itself against any act of aggression. This is Iran's fundamental policy," he said.
He said the Saudis rely on foreigners to guarantee their security and will face problems if Trump is not reelected or if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is weakened by domestic challenges.
“Such an attitude also means Riyadh would not be willing to get closer to Iran, as long as people like Trump and Netanyahu are in power because it does not feel threatened,” Zanganeh said.
"However, an issue such as the conflict in Yemen can cause Saudi Arabia to change its calculations and make new decisions with regard to its relations with regional countries."
According to The Wall Street Journal, Saudi Arabia recently took steps to try to end the war in Yemen, where thousands of people have died and the kingdom remains mired in conflict over four years after launching an intervention against the Houthi movement.
Zanganeh said the only option facing Saudi Arabia is to revise its regional policies and cooperate with other states in the region based on logic.