EghtesadOnline: Saudi and Emirati officials are signaling rapprochement with Iran because they want to limit the scope of their confrontation with Iran to the political field, says a former diplomat, who maintains that Iran's response could determine the future of ties.
"Persian Gulf Arab states, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are seeking to shift the focus of their disputes with Iran from military issues to political ones in order to deescalate tensions," Nosratollah Tajik, a former envoy to Jordan, told ISNA in a recent interview.
He was referring to the fact that Saudi and UAE officials have in recent months signaled their willingness to address their differences with Iran through diplomacy and are no longer beating the drums of war against the Islamic Republic.
Tajik, an expert on international affairs, said issues such as oil tanker incidents, Tehran's shooting down of an intruding American drone and US President Donald Trump's stance on security issues in the Persian Gulf have caused Arab governments to amend their attitude toward Iran, according to Financial Tribune.
"Persian Gulf Arab states have realized that Trump has focused his attention on America and is not willing to pay the cost of ensuring the security of these countries. On the other hand, he has to fulfill his promises about reducing America's military involvement in the Middle East region, albeit on paper, to increase his chances of getting reelected in the 2020 presidential elections," he said.
The expert noted that Persian Gulf states prefer to not get involved in a potential military confrontation between Iran and the United States.
“They are trying to diversify their sources of importing weapons and are turning to Russia,” he said.
Russian President Vladimir Putin landed in Riyadh in mid-October for his first state visit to Saudi Arabia and the UAE in more than a decade, during which deals worth billions of dollars were signed in various sectors.
Tajik said the UAE has taken more steps toward "political compromise" with Iran compared to Saudi Arabia.
"In recent months, we have seen an increase in relations between Iran and the UAE, and Iranian expatriates in the UAE are experiencing a more positive atmosphere," he said.
Saudi Arabia and Iran have been supporting opposite sides in the war in Syria and rival political parties in Iraq and Lebanon. They have also adopted different approaches to the conflict in Yemen.
The kingdom severed diplomatic relations after Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran following the execution of an eminent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr without due process in Saudi Arabia in January 2016.
Saudi authorities welcomed Washington's decision last year to withdraw the United States from an international nuclear agreement with Iran and reimpose economic sanctions on Tehran.
However, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman recently voiced support for a political solution to settle disputes with Iran. He also welcomed the possibility of a meeting between Trump and President Hassan Rouhani.
Tajik said Expo 2020, which will be hosted by Dubai, the UAE, has also led Emirati officials to move toward defusing their tensions with regional countries, including Iran.
"Iran's policies toward Persian Gulf countries, including the UAE and Saudi Arabia, can help resolve tensions and positively affect the new trend," he concluded.