March 10, 2023

NIAC Statement in Reaction to Iran-Saudi Deal

Ryan Costello, Policy Director with the National Iranian American Council, issued the following rapid reaction to the announcement of a diplomatic breakthrough between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China:

The renewal of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China, is likely to be a significant net positive for regional security. 

When Iran and Saudi Arabia clash, regional security significantly suffers – as evidenced by sectarian conflicts that have torn apart many of their neighbors like Yemen and Syria. There are also significant security consequences to each – Iran has blamed terrorist attacks on its soil on Saudi Arabia, while the kingdom’s oil facilities were struck directly by Iranian cruise missiles. 

Fortunately, these confrontations did not spill into open conflict between the two regional powers, despite the Trump administration and Saudi kingdom working hand in hand to escalate pressure against Iran. The Biden administration was right to course correct and encourage de-escalatory dialogue in its first years in office.

However, it is also impossible to ignore that the U.S., which initially supported these regional de-escalatory steps in Baghdad, appears to have ceded the role of mediator to China. This follows the U.S. de-emphasizing diplomacy with Iran even as it has accepted and continued to enforce the maximum pressure policies of Trump that it once sharply criticized.

While the de-escalatory steps are welcome, provided they are implemented, it is concerning that the parties to the accord and the broker of the agreement are all authoritarian states with little to no concern for the human rights of those subject to their rule. While the United States has an extremely checkered and uneven relation to human rights in the region, whatever pressures the U.S. might have exerted in advance of more favorable human rights outcomes have receded with its abdication of a role as the preeminent regional mediator. 

As former President Obama prominently said, these two regional powers and often bitter rivals “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.” The announcement today is a step in that direction provided it is implemented in both letter and spirit.

Back to top