Oct 13, 2019, 5:47 PM
Journalist ID: 2382
News Code: 83515841
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Pakistani PM’s strive to ease tension in Riyadh-Tehran ties

Tehran, Oct 13, IRNA - A Middle East affairs expert says that given Saudi Arabia's shift in its regional policies, Imran Khan's efforts appear to be largely effective in reducing tensions and restoring Iran-Saudi relations.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan traveled to Tehran today and is due to visit Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

During his several-hour trip to Tehran, the Pakistani prime minister was expected to propose initiatives to reduce tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

This is Imran Khan's second official visit to Iran since his election as Pakistani prime minister. Many analysts believe the development would be a major diplomatic success for Islamabad if Imran Khan’s initiative helps resolve disputes between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the Pakistani prime minister's mediation, not at the behest of Saudi Arabia, was more of a personal diplomatic initiative on the part of the prime minister, but Riyadh's willingness to reduce tensions was also effective.

Middle East expert Kamran Karami discussed the issues in an exclusive interview with IRNA.

Karami said the important thing in the current situation in the region is the change in the perception of the Saudi Crown Prince Bin Salman about the threats that Saudi Arabia is facing today. Bin Salman's past perception of Iran's regional power was that Saudi Arabia could pull the scope of the Middle East war into Iran. Bin Salman's 2017 interview stems from Saudi Arabia's stance that Saudi Arabia can face Iran, but the developments in the last six months, including Saudi Arabia's failure in the Yemeni war and Saudi Arabia's frustration over US’ approach toward Iran due to Saudi Arabia's stances showed that the Saudis should reconsider their regional policies.

These developments have led Bin Salman to conclude that the threat has reached a level where action must be taken to reduce it. The key point to note is the shift in perception among Saudi leaders that has caused Saudi officials not only be reluctant to raise tensions with Iran but also to welcome any efforts, including the ongoing mediation of Imran Khan to reduce tensions with Iran. Imran Khan's efforts appear to be largely fruitful given the change in Saudi attitudes in reducing the level of tensions between Tehran and Riyadh.

The Saudi failure in the Yemeni war and the US inability to repel the Ansarullah's attacks on Saudi oil facilities were two important components that prompted Saudi Arabia to reconsider its regional policies, the Middle East expert said. Yemen's war and frustration over US support for Saudi Arabia over differences and tensions between the Saudis and Tehran have led Saudi Arabia to seek to normalize relations with Iran by reducing tensions and proposing political negotiations. 

Another factor that could play an important role in changing Saudi Arabia's stance is the future of Bin Salman as news king. At present, one of Bin Salman's considerations is related to the internal affairs of Saudi Arabia, apart from Yemen and the United States' issues. The preparations for Bin Salman's monarchy must come in the condition that King Salman, the current king of Saudi Arabia, is alive and well before the election in the United States, the task of succeeding the king in Saudi Arabia is to be determined. The extremism and cases that Bin Salman has caused in Saudi Arabia since 2015 have caused widespread discontent among the political elite and the Saudi princes. Bin Salman needs political calm and stability in order to achieve the monarchy, and any threat will put his political position is at stake.

Overall, Bin Salman's look at the future of succession in Saudi Arabia and stable conditions, the Saudi desire for political negotiations in the Yemeni war, and the US approach to the war with Iran have had a significant impact on reducing the level of tension between Tehran and Riyadh.

Pakistan's capacity to reduce Riyadh-Tehran tensions

Regarding the role of Islamabad in reducing the tension between Riyadh and Tehran, Karami noted that due to Riyadh-Islamabad friendly relations, the warm ties between Riyadh and Islamabad have been strengthened since Imran Khan came to power, and the Pakistani prime minister went to Riyadh and Jeddah several times and Bin Salman has also traveled to Pakistan in 2018. Pakistan-Saudi Arabia bilateral relations show that the Saudis welcome the ongoing efforts by Imran Khan to reduce tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia because of their proximity and confidence in Pakistan.

Of course, these efforts do not necessarily mean that Pakistan can negotiate with an extraordinary and peace-based initiative. Pakistan's role seems to be at a level that can control the level of tensions, and Imran Khan has already pointed out that "we can be a loser in the tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia". The vulnerability of Pakistan's economy and its domestic affairs suggests that the discussion of stability, calm and reducing tensions in Iran-Saudi relations could be in Pakistan's favor". Thus, Saudi Arabia welcomes any attempt by Imran Khan to lower the level of tension. Pakistanis also have concerns about their sake, and these efforts do not necessarily mean an extraordinary initiative by Pakistan, but rather a consultation with the parties and encouragement to provide a negotiating table and a political solution.

Possible preconditions in Tehran-Riyadh negotiations

The Saudis have preconditions, and Iran has preconditions, though it has not put forward, but believes the Yemeni war must be stopped so that we can negotiate politically, Karami said about possible negotiations. The Saudis have some considerations at the moment, as Saudi State Minister for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir has pointed out, and it appears that Saudi Arabia does not want to be portrayed as a loser in the negotiations with Iran.

The important thing for the Saudis is that Saudi Arabia's aggressive approach towards Iran should not be changed to a situation that Saudi Arabia has suffered failure. Not being a loser in the current situation is important for Saudi Arabia. Bin Salman's willingness to negotiate, and an interview by Adel Al-Jubeir, which says no change in Iranian behavior has been visible, indicates that Saudi Arabia’s strive is that not to be exposed among public opinion and other actors as a loser in Iran and Saudi negotiations, and this is important for the Saudis.

If Iran seeks to turn the Riyadh-Tehran negotiations into a model for resolving regional issues, it should not put Saudi Arabia in a defensive position and acting as a result of political frustration and numerous failures have been forced to sit around the negotiating table, he said. Because such a perception could not be effective on the success of possible negotiations and easing the level of tension.

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