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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Washington - Ali Barada

US Welcomes Saudi-Iranian Dialogue if it Curbs Tehran’s ‘Destabilizing Activities’

US State Department spokesman Vedant Patel

US President Joe Biden's Administration has described the meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian in Beijing as “an expected step” as part of the agreement between the Kingdom and Iran.

“A meeting of Iranian and Saudi foreign ministers is an expected step in the dialogue process,” US State Department principal deputy spokesman Vedant Patel said.

He added that the Biden Administration has “long encouraged direct dialogue and diplomacy, including between Iran and its neighboring regional government to help reduce tensions and risk conflict.”

“If this dialogue leads to concrete actions by Iran to curb its destabilizing activities in the region, including the proliferation of dangerous weapons, then of course we would welcome that.”

The Saudi-Iranian talks “could shift the geopolitics of the Middle East”, according to The New York Times.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “has been keen to expand alliances with other partners”, in addition to the US, it said.

It added that Beijing is increasingly attempting to present itself as “a counterweight to the United States in global diplomacy”.

Neither Patel nor other spokespersons commented on the reports about the China-brokered deal being more than the normalization of ties between Riyadh and Tehran.

Foreign Policy reported that Iran Supreme leader Ali “Khamenei’s close circle and the IRGC genuinely believe the US-led liberal world order is collapsing and a new anti-Western order led by China, Russia, and Iran is taking shape.”

“As recent as November 2022, Khamenei outlined a vision of a new order based on ‘the isolation of the United States, the transfer of power to Asia, [and] the expansion of the [anti-West] resistance front’.”

“Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior IRGC commander and military advisor to Khamenei, asserted that the post-US era in the region has begun.”

“Washington has been struggling to adapt to the new Saudi Arabia,” The New York Times quoted Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa at Eurasia Group, as saying. “This creates a whole new set of challenges as US allies have begun to create their distinct Iran policy that might not align with Washington’s own approach.”

Foreign Policy affirmed that “Riyadh is fully aware of this” because “It knows the true identity and motivations of the IRGC beyond the smiling face of Ali Shamkhani.”

Shamkhani is the Secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

“However, for the Saudis, the deal… gives them the ability to pursue their primary goals, which are about building the economic strength of their country and carrying forward the social reforms” that the country needs under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “with what they will see as enhanced protection against Iranian direct or proxy attack.”.

The Kingdom has been searching for a different approach toward Iran to minimize the threats against Saudi Arabia, said Anna Jacobs, a senior Gulf analyst at the International Crisis Group.

Instead of trying to isolate Iran, Saudi Arabia is now “looking to counter, contain and engage Iran,” she said.

“Many experts still assume that whoever is in the White House will guide Saudi policy on Iran,” Jacobs said, “but that simply isn’t true today.”

“Saudi Arabia and Gulf Arab states are focusing on their economic, political, and security interests and protecting themselves from regional threats,” including the potential for escalating tensions between Iran and Israel,” she added.

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