The Middle East has witnessed plenty of intense moments in recent weeks. However, one of which that seems to be the most influential is the high level of tension and concern over the potential conflict between Saudi Arabia and Islamic Republic of Iran. Yet, this time it does not seem to be the usual proxy war acted upon regularly in this region, but a real hot war; a war with no winner and assured definite collateral damage locally and at an international level.
While everyone was anticipating hostile reactions, both countries exercised a “diplomatic” approach: the “Coalition for hope” (a far reaching and not easily feasible peace proposal from President Hasan Rouhani to United Nations that invites all the regional countries to join Iran in securing the Persian Gulf, Oman Sea and the Strait of Hormuz) is one example. Another diplomatic exercise was carried-out by Prince Muhammad Bin Salman on his interview to the American CBS program while he was warning the world about the danger of Islamic Republic of Iran, he also gave the impression of how profoundly the balances of power are changing in the region, how much the vacuum of power is illustrating itself, and that a new conflict would not be the preferred solution, perhaps also considering the fact that the old allies are not showing to be fully supporting anymore in such a direction.
In the region where states are acting to balance their greatest security threats, apparent equations have been modified. When President Trump hesitantly stressed war with Iran after the Saudi oil facility attacks, he spoke of his “America first” policy and made the assertion that United States will not be involved in another Middle Eastern conflict (let alone one that can potentially be long lasting). Instead, the response of United States was another round of sanctions aimed at applying “maximum pressure” on the Islamic Republic of Iran.
As much as Saudi Arabia is not happy with the rise of Iran and its proxy activities in the region, the ruling elite realized the numerous security vulnerabilities in their country, along with the reality that United States in not willing to send Americans to war in the Middle East. Another important deterrent is the costly Saudi Arabian conflict in Yemen that inhibits Saudi Arabian decision makers to start another expensive war (especially when said war has no predictable result).
Media exposure is not desirable for the highly conservative state, resulting in unwanted attention from other states and organizations judging them. From the Case of Jamal Khashoggi, to Yemen war, and even the recent murder of the personal bodyguard to the king, all have been broadcasted from news stations around the world. This increased exposure could also focus on the Yemen war, a war with many hard knots and no predictable end.
Presumably the best way of managing the present conflict for Saudi Arabia would be to avoid all types of conflict due to their lack of sufficient resources; more or less, the same way that Islamic Republic of Iran is behaving. Feeling the heavy pressure over its economy after the return of old sanctions and additional ones, (along with lack of internal homogenous policy over foreign affairs) Iran is pushed to respond more hesitantly in its foreign policies.
Are both Iran and Saudi Arabia willing to seek a diplomatic approach resulting in peace? Or it is a façade, simply conducting damage control?
Years of wars (whether actual or proxy) have only brought extra cost to human and material resources for both sides, along with disasters that will take ages to recover from.
In reality, dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia can reasonably ease many conflict zones in the region. However, it would not be easy for the states to reach to a compromise since both want peace but on their own terms and without taking a step back.
If we consider that both sides are sincere in their messages, how and by whom will the dialogue be initiated?
The United States, in alliance with Saudi Arabia and Israel exercising a strategy of “Maximum Pressure”, will presumably not be given the meditating role between Iran and Saudi Arabia peace talks. Therefore, should the initiation of the dialogue be conducted by the European Union? If the European Union should act as the arbitrator, not only should they lead discussions on diplomacy, but also focus on other recent conflicts of the region that have resulted from the Iran-Saudi Arabian attrition, the resolution of which could be beneficial for the interest of European Union itself. Any military escalations would in fact destroy the efforts to rescue the Iran Nuclear Deal, which European Union has been always willing to keep afloat, and additionally narrow the path to a diplomatic approach. Initiating a diplomatic dialogue between Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia would perhaps ease further dialogues for an alternative, or modified, agreement of the original one about Iranian nuclear activities.
(You can read the last article by Ghazal Poorhasan here)