Saudi Arabia to ‘test’ Iran before finalizing restoration of diplomatic ties, journalists surmise

Saudi journalists say adoption of Chinese-brokered deal to reestablish ties with Tehran marks step away from the US and towards Beijing, even as Riyahd remains wary of Iran’s intentions.

By World Israel News Staff

Saudi Arabia’s deal with Iran to reestablish diplomatic ties between the Sunni kingdom and the Shiite Islamic Republic is contingent on a two-month trial period, Saudi reporters say, claiming that the finalization of the restoration of relations between the two countries is dependent on Tehran’s behavior.

Last Friday, Tehran announced that it had reached an agreement with Riyadh under which the two countries would reopen their respective embassies and resume diplomatic relations in 60 days.

The two countries broke off ties in January 2016, after a prominent Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia was executed.

Two Saudi diplomatic facilities in Iran – the embassy in Tehran and a consulate in Mashhad – were attacked shortly after the execution, prompting Riyadh to expel Iran’s mission in Saudi Arabia.

The incident marked a low point in relations between the long-time rivals – and a boon to Israel’s efforts to isolate Tehran over its nuclear program.

The announcement Friday that Tehran and Riyadh agreed to reestablish ties was denounced by former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as “a serious and dangerous development.”

“It represents a critical blow to efforts to build a regional coalition against Iran,” he said.

But according to Saudi columnists, the deal brokered by China will be dependent on Iran’s actions during the two-month interim period, during which Riyadh will be assessing Tehran’s “good intentions.”

“The two-month period… is the first test of Iran’s credibility and proof of good intentions as we must see the start of real change in the regional landscape and a real correction in its dealings with the Kingdom,” Okaz columnist Hamoud Abu Taleb wrote.

Abdullah al-Otaibi of the state-owned Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper echoed Abu Taleb’s claim, saying Saudi Arabia would “test” Iran’s commitment.

The shift among Saudi leadership in favor of restoring ties is motivated in part by frustration with the Biden administration as a guarantor of Middle East stability, columnist Tariq al-Homayed wrote, claiming that in accepting the deal, Riyadh has taken a step towards embracing Chinese influence in the region, over that of the United States.

“It is natural to have diplomatic ties even if at a low level because Iran’s expansionist approach has created many touch points with Saudi Arabia… (But) we have to keep our eyes open,” according to al-Homayed. “China is the guarantor for this agreement. This will be important if Iran does not comply.”

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