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Will Saudi Arabia Negotiate with Iran? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US and Saudi investigators spread debris on plastic sheets as they gather evidence after the June 25, 1996, bombing outside the Khobar Towers complex in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: AFP

The reply to the question in the title above is: maybe, but! To explain the answer, one must understand the Iranian motives to want to engage in dialogue with Saudi Arabia now. It is evident from latest statements of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, the importance of Saudi-Iranian cooperation in Syria and Yemen, like that in Lebanon.

Zarif’s statement doesn’t necessarily equal Iran’s credibility or maturity. It is an indication that Iran is concerned with a new era of U.S. Presidency occupied by Donald Trump.

Some might wonder what Saudi Arabia has to do with this. Well, the answer is simple. We have a historic event which we should recall now.

During the presidency of former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Washington was lobbying for a Saudi cooperation that could condemn Iran in the Khobar bombings. Back then, Iran resorted to its old repetitive game: Reform.

Tehran sought reconciliation with Riyadh which led to the “Nayef–Rouhani” agreement, that is the agreement between the late Crown Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz, may his soul rest in peace, and current President Hasan Rouhani, who was head of intelligence back then.

The agreement stipulates that Iran would commit to good-neighborliness, refrain from interfering in Saudi internal affairs and hand over the suspects involved in the bombings.

As soon as the U.S. storm subsided, Iran went back to its old game and became further involved in the internal affairs of Arab states.

Iran’s effort to create chaos is no strange to any of us.

Therefore, the statements of Iranian FM are no more than extensions of Tehran’s old tricks on the hope that a dialogue with Riyadh would eliminate any chance of a Saudi, and consequently Gulf, American coalition against Iran, and grant Tehran the chance to deal with Trump without a Saudi role.

The issue is as simple as that, and there are evidences to support that.

Hence, there is no rupture of relations in politics and there is nothing wrong with initiating dialogue and negotiations even if done through back channels. But, there is no room for goodwill in politics either, especially with Iran who has to show its seriousness and goodwill for dialogue.

If Tehran is indeed direct and serious it should stop its involvement in the internal affairs of Yemen, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia.

Iran should stop the killing machine in Syria and withdraw its Shi’ite armed militias from there, including Hezbollah and Iraqi terrorist parties.

Tehran’s involvement in Syria doesn’t need any proof, particularly that Bashar al-Assad’s personal guards are Iranians!

Consequently, if Iran wants negotiations, the ball is in its court and it should take serious measures. Other than that, believing Iran’s statements is just a waste of time.

We have witnessed Iran’s aggressive behavior over the past ten years and observed its extreme vanity during the presidency of former U.S. President Barack Obama.

History taught us a lot about the Iranian tricks, and the reformists-hardliners game.

So, Tehran should retreat to its geographical area and stop sabotage and incitement in the region, or it will be left to face its own destiny.