Saudis patiently watching as Riyadh-Tehran deal unfolds
Almost two weeks after deal signing, Saudis are reminded of past incidents but optimistic of peace deal to start new page
JEDDAH: Apprehension, wariness, skepticism, cautious optimism: These were just some of the reactions among the Saudi public indicative of the mixed mood that followed the unprecedented announcement of a Chinese-brokered deal between the Kingdom and Iran. In short, people are watching with interest and waiting to see how it all plays out.
Seven years ago, the world watched in horror as the Kingdom’s embassy and consulate in Iran were attacked and set on fire by Iranian protesters. This led to the severing of diplomatic ties, which were only restored less than two weeks ago. The scenes in 2016 brought back memories for many people of the torching of the Saudi and Kuwaiti embassies in Tehran in 1987.
Mixed feelings and reactions or not, the agreement to restore diplomatic ties between Riyadh and Tehran has certainly been a major talking point since it was announced on March 10. There are still more questions than answers about exactly what it means, but the three parties involved in the negotiations have asserted that the rapprochement is part of a process after a zero-sum game that continued for nearly a decade.
The Saudi Press Agency reported that Riyadh and Beijing have agreed to respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs. This a problematic notion, however, given the history of Iranian aggression toward the Kingdom, including the 1987 Makkah demonstrations, the 1996 Khobar tower attacks, the 2011 plot to assassinate the then Saudi ambassador to Washington, Adel Al-Jubair, and the 2019 missile attacks on the Kingdom’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, to name a few incidents.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said that the Kingdom’s agreement with Iran to restore diplomatic ties does not mean that the countries have resolved all of their disagreements but that it underscores a mutual desire to “resolve disputes through communication and dialogue.”
The rapprochement follows years of tensions across the region so it is no surprise that Saudis took to social media to share their opinions on the agreement.
Many expressed support for their government’s decision, saying that that they hope and believe it could be a significant step forward, as the deal includes the reactivation of a security agreement, signed in 2001, for cooperation on efforts to combat terrorism, drug smuggling, money laundering and other criminal activity.