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What does the Iran, Saudi Arabia agreement signify globally?

By Natasha Hawa | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2023-05-05 11:18


In March of this year, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced a deal with intention to restore relations between the two countries. Mediated by China, the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries not only has wider implications for relations in the region, but also signifies several important transformations for the globe.

Firstly, the deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran was brokered by China rather than the US. This shows a fundamental shift in emerging powers in the region. The US has always been heavily entrenched in the Middle East with its involvement in Iraq, Libya and Syria, to name a few countries. It has also always had strong ties with Saudi Arabia, with the US providing them with military protection in exchange for a reliable oil supply.

Yet, this momentous agreement between Iran and Saudi has been brokered by China and not the US. In fact, Saudi Arabia has recently shifted towards warming relations with China, having signed trade agreements with China in December 2022, which demonstrates the weakening of US dominance in the area and the strengthening of China's influence. It also demonstrates diplomatic expertise possessed by members of the Chinese government, with their ability to bring two countries to the negotiating table. China has therefore demonstrated its ability to lead and broker negotiations through peaceful dialogue to the wider world.

Secondly, the deal demonstrates a shifting of relations internally within the Middle East. As the famous quote says: "United we stand, divided we fall". This can certainly be applied to the region. Over the past decades, external powers have played a huge role in regime change wars in certain countries, such as Iraq and Libya. The ability to deflect their involvement has been hindered by the fact that relations between countries in the Middle East itself have been fractured. Thus, allowing these external parties to amplify existing tensions within the area to their own gain. Restoring relations between countries in the Middle East is essential to demonstrate a united front to the world and deter further aggressive/ unwanted potential involvement. This will hopefully lead to greater peace and stability in the region.

It is remarkable, although somewhat unsurprising, that given such a historical agreement, brokered by China, that such little attention has been paid to it by media (especially in the UK).

Acknowledging the success that China has made with these negotiations would force Western powers to recognize the devastation caused by their own past administrations. It may also compel them to consider how their own once-close relationship with certain countries in the Middle East may now be evolving to their own detriment.

Furthermore, one can assume the reason why the West wishes to downplay the success of such a meeting is that it would then have to admit that there are emerging powers in the world who are stepping up to broker international agreements, a role which the West, in particular the US, used to assume. Given the West's hostility towards China, it is not something Western leaders would want to do.

This attitude from the West is particularly caused by the fact that China has managed to restore relations in a diplomatic and peaceful way without resorting to war or aggression, which is a novelty for Western leaders.

The author is an independent journalist based in the UK. 

The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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