The China-mediated reconciliation announcement between Saudi Arabia and Iran is a significant development with regard to Middle East geopolitics. It underlines the growing involvement of China in regional and international politics much beyond its neighborhood. Given that China and the US are in a competition to shape the global order based on their interests and priorities, the development acquires even more significance.
The historic agreement between the two countries which was signed in Beijing last week is expected to have a far reaching global impact. The negotiations were kept secret till the minute the agreement was inked which is expected to ease tensions after many between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While China is projecting itself as a peace broker, there is hope for peace in Yemen where both Iran and Saudi have, according to reports in public domain, carried out proxy war and stability in Lebanon.
The United Nations, several West Asian countries, Jordan and France have welcomed the agreement. However some see it as a counter to the US brokered Abraham Accords and countries like Israel, UAE and US to be concerned.
“In the Middle East, the US has been working with its regional allies and international partners to maintain the regional order and not allow regional powers such as Iran and Turkey and international powers such as Russia and China, to undermine American interests,” opines Md Muddassir Quamar, Fellow, Manohar Parrikar IDSA, New Delhi.
Will this impact I2U2?
According to Md Quamar, “While India has so far remained aloof from getting involved in geopolitical maneuvering in the region, it indeed joined a mini
“This was viewed as an expansion of the Abraham Accords and was termed as the Indo-Abrahamic Accord with the ability to maintain regional order and not allowing China-Iran-Russia to implement a revisionist policy in the region,” he says.
The Saudi-Iran announcement underlines that Riyadh is keener on following an independent regional and foreign policy based on its own calculus and this might undermine efforts by the US, Israel and the UAE to keep the regional order intact. “But so far as the geo-economic component of the I2U2 is concerned, which New Delhi is more interested in, any effort at consolidating regional peace and stability is a welcome step and hence the Saudi-Iran reconciliation should be welcomed,” he opines.
The ongoing friction between West and Iran has played out in Gulf waters. It is through the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf through which much of the world’s oil transits.
There were several attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and Persian Gulf in 2019, following which the then US President Donald Trump decided to re-impose sanctions against Iran and also dropped the nuclear pact with that country. After which in an effort to de-escalate, both Saudi Arabia and the UAE started engaging directly with Iran.
In recent years Iran and Israel have traded accusations of attacking each other’s vessels and reports indicate that the Fifth Fleet of the US based in Bahrain has seized shipments of weapons which are suspected to have come from Iran.
It has been reported earlier that the Indian Navy a week after the attack on the oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman in 2019 had deployed two ships. This was done to ensure safe passage for Indian flagged vessels transiting through those waters. In 2019 Iran was blamed by the US administration of attacking Norwegian-owned and a Japanese-owned tanker. However Tehran denied the US allegations.
This is the first time China has become involved directly to broker peace as stability is important in West Asia which is a major energy source. And for China which is the world’s largest oil importer and is a leading trading partner and leading oil buyer with both countries this agreement is significant.