Context: On March 10, 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran, represented by their national security advisers, signed an agreement in Beijing, China, to re­-establish diplomatic ties, respect each other’s sovereignty and maintain non­interference in the other’s domestic affairs. .

  • The agreement also reinstates two previous accords: one on security cooperation signed in 2001 and the other, going back to 1998, dealing with economic, technical, scientific and cultural ties.
  • This recent agreement ends seven years of diplomatic estrangement between the two Gulf neighbours.
  • During this period, they have confronted each other in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen, carried out media campaigns of extraordinary mutual hostility, often on sectarian basis, and have on occasion come close to direct conflict, particularly in 2019 when suspected Iranian agents attacked Saudi oil facilities.
  • The accord has been welcomed across West Asia.
  • Run-up to the deal: Loss of U.S. Credibility
  • This agreement was largely the result of increasing regional disenchantment with the U.S. as a security ­provider, alongside strong messages from Washington that it was less enthusiastic about being the regional security­ guarantor.
  • The U.S.’s military failures in Iraq and Afghanistan contributed to its loss of credibility among its regional allies. W
  • hat regional states are seeking is not to disengage from the U.S. but to broaden their options and build alternative relationships to suit their interests.
  • Emergence of China an an attractive partner: It has substantial energy, trade, investment and technology ­related ties with West Asia:
  • it is the region’s largest buyer of crude oil,
  • a major trade and investment partner, and
  • is also rapidly expanding its role as a technology ­provider in most countries.
  • West Asia is also crucial for the realisation of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), with regional states being important for logistical connectivity, and investment, consultancy and contracting partnerships.

Diplomatic challenges

Iran Nuclear Deal

  • Regional security also needs the revival of the nuclear agreement, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and linked with it, the management of Israel’s aggressiveness.