Saudi-Iranian Détente


Note, the news, there is some kind of “rapprochement” between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Islamic Republic of Iran, must be welcoming news for all Muslims and Arabs. These two countries are the ones with the moral and political authority to set the path to peace and extinguish all the regional conflicts and wars going in Yemen, in Syria, certainly in Iraq, and Bahrain. Without these two countries reconciling their personal, political differences, Muslims all over the world are at risk. Both take full responsibilities for peace or war. Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Selman can emerge as the leader who brings about peace, prosperity, and development or brings about chaos and conflicts. I modified this essay which I wrote back on January 26, 2015, to fit the time. What I said then remains true today.
Americans — with divided loyalties between America and Israel, and with national priorities taking a back seat to narrow political ideologies — is not in a position to solve the Middle East problems by choice and by design.
In fact, America is the driving force in the continued conflicts, especially the Arab-Israeli conflict. The Israeli occupation of Palestine is an internal American domestic issue, rather than an international one, and is driven by Congress and AIPAC and money in politics.
It is time for the Arab and Muslim worlds to wake up and face the ugly truth that America is not the Mecca for Muslims and Arabs to come to, to solve their problems and conflicts. Domestic considerations rather than national interests continue to drive US policies in the Middle East. It is up to the Muslims and Arabs to solve their own conflicts, their own issues, their ills, their political, and sectarian divisions and stop wasting their wealth on weapons and arms and invest these hundreds of billions in building and development.
The answers to the conflicts that have afflicted and continue to afflict people and nations in both the Arab and Muslim worlds in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain, do not lie in Washington, but in Riyadh and Tehran.
Two regional powers (political and religious) neighbors that need to come to term with their own duties and obligations toward the people in the region and exercise their power and wisdom in the service of peace and stability.
It is time for the leadership of these two key nations to sit down and work hand-in-hand solving one conflict after another. If there is a will, there is a way.
The ascension to the throne by King Salman, with his bold steps of appointing the second generation of Al-Saud to key positions in government, is a first step that should lead to even bolder steps on the international level.
A Saudi-Iranian détente is a good first step toward resolving many of the disputes that are consuming people and destroying wealth and nations in the Middle East. With many of their regional conflicts solved, Saudi and Iranian leadership could give their attentions to solving their own chronic problems of high unemployment, economic disruptions, and other social issues.
Like they say, it takes two to tango, so Iranian and Saudi Arabian leaderships, King Salman and President Rouhani, for the sake of hundreds of millions whose future is at stake, must exercise the needed leadership.
For the sake of millions in exile and in refugee camps; for the sake of the thousands dying every day; for the sake of the cities being destroyed beyond recognition; for the sake of the dead, the dying and the hardly living; the leadership of these two key nations, must take the initiative for “rapprochement”, leaving behind sectarian and geopolitical interests and begin to work on a grander scale for the common good.
Such détente will not be easy, given the power and influence of both Saudi and Iranian religious “establishments” — that for the sake of “Umma” must step aside and allow the political leadership to commit themselves — and work together hand-in-hand and within 6 months to solve regional conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain. They can do it, and there are no other choices but to do it.
Washington, Moscow, Peking, Paris, and Berlin are not the answer… Tehran and Riyadh are the places to start solving these regional conflicts. Tehran and Riyadh should be the “Axis of Good”.
While the Iranian nuclear program is a source of fear and apprehension in all Arab Gulf countries, the onus is on the Islamic Republic of Iran to set these fears aside as the first step toward this much-awaited détente. Iran should initiate its own “nuclear discussions” with its neighbors in the region, no different from its own discussions with the Group of 5+1. Saudi Arabia will never have a trusted allies in Israel or AIPAC.
With good will from both sides, Saudi Arabia and Iran can work and should work together and defuse the political and sectarian conflicts that so far have costs hundreds of thousands of lives, cost hundred of billions, and rendered nations like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Libya failed nations.
Without a concerted effort for peace, there are no assurances these regional conflicts will not spill over to both Iran and Saudi Arabia, endangering these nations as well.
Whether we like to admit it or not, there is a cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia that is translating to hot wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and certainly in Yemen.
Time to give peace and prosperity a chance. The time is now — not tomorrow — for a Saudi-Iranian détente. Once this détente is in place, other regional powers such as Turkey, Egypt and UAE can be invited to solidify the process of working for the future, initiating an Islamic Renaissance.
There is no reason not to make these overtures! As we expect Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Salman to chose “détente” we also expect hardliners in Iran to stop inciting conflicts to suit their personal and political interests.

Author: Sami Jamil Jadallah, Founder & Executive Director of the New Arab Foundation

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