A political commentator says Saudi Arabia’s protracted war against Yemen plus the United States’ wavering support for the war prompted the kingdom to seek rapprochement with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
In an interview with Press TV, Beau Grosscup, professor emeritus of political science at California State University, said Saudi Arabia’s new approach toward Iran is part of a regional effort by a number of Arab states to calm down the pressures led by Israel and the US’s neo-conservatives for a war in the Middle East.
The remarks came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said Riyadh is seeking to have “good relations” with Iran and that the kingdom was not interested in perpetual hostility with the Islamic Republic.
“Iran is a neighboring state, we are seeking to have good relations with Iran, we have interests in Iran,” the Saudi crown prince said in an interview broadcast on state TV on Tuesday.
Asked whether the kingdom’s failure in its war on Yemen is tied to its attempt to broker rapprochement with Iran, the professor said since Iran is a major player opposing the Saudi war on Yemen and the US support for the war is wavering, the Saudis see rapprochement or the effort at a new relationship with Iran as in their national interest.
Saudi Arabia and its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015 to reinstall Riyadh-friendly former Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The war – which they thought would last only a few weeks but is still ongoing – has led to the death of hundreds of thousands of civilians including women and children, and destroyed much of Yemen’s infrastructure.
‘Saudi conditions can doom peace effort’
Bin Salman, however, said that rapprochement with Iran is hindered by some difficulties.
He added that Riyadh is working with its partners in the region to overcome differences with Iran, especially with its support for Yemen and the development of its nuclear program.
Grosscup argued that Riyadh’s two conditions for normalizing relations with Iran can doom any peace effort.
“If insisted upon, they will doom the peace effort, but will have the advantage to the US-Israeli-Saudi alliance of supporting the allegation that Iran is still the aggressor,” he added.
Elsewhere in his remarks, Grosscup also said that Saudi Arabia may be looking to overcome its pariah status in the world by posturing itself as a “peacemaker” in the Middle East.
“But, since the Saudi Kingdom never seems bothered by ‘bad press’ and the international reaction, the US in particular, to Saudi transgressions has been, as usual, mild, this is not a main reason for the Saudi ‘peace’ effort,” he told Press TV.
The political commentator maintained that a failed Yemen policy and a desire to lower the prospects of a larger Middle East war are the driving forces of the multilateral negotiations that center on the Iranian-Saudi relationship.
“Of course, one can do two things at the same time; normalize relations with one’s neighbor(s) and get rid of one’s negative pariah image, he added.
Tehran has reacted positively to the recent “change in Saudi Arabia’s tone” towards the Islamic Republic, with Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh saying the two sides can put their differences behind and “enter a fresh chapter of interaction and cooperation towards the realization of regional peace, stability, and development.”
On Thursday night, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif concluded his regional tour which aimed at expanding regional cooperation. During his tour, Zarif also presented President Hassan Rouhani’s Hormuz Peace Initiative (HOPE) to establish peace and prosperity for regional countries.