BREAKING NEWS: China brokered a surprise peace deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia yesterday.
Representatives of the estranged Middle Eastern nations emerged from a meeting in Beijing with an agreement to reopen embassies and other long-severed ties.
“This is a victory for dialogue, a victory for peace, offering major good news at a time of much turbulence in the world,” said China’s top diplomat Wang Yi (pictured above with Iran’s Ali Shamkhani, right, and Saudi Arabia’s Musaad bin Mohammed Al Aiban, left. Image by China Daily).
The news is sending shock waves through geopolitical circles—both for the unexpected breakout of peace, and for the revelation of who brought the warring sides together.
The Saudi Press Agency said the two countries had agreed to “respect state sovereignty and not interfere in each other’s internal affairs”, echoing Chinese principles of the need for communities to show respect for neighboring countries’ borders and concerns.
Former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett described the peace deal as a “serious and dangerous” development.
The pact, cut by China’s top diplomat Wang Yi, has enormous implications.
First, aid workers are hoping it could be the beginning of the end for a brutal proxy war the two powers are fighting in Yemen—one which has caused more than 150,000 deaths in one of the poorest nations on earth since 2014.
Second, it could give Iranians hope for an active role in the region, in place of their current position, isolated and suffering under a long string of US-led sanctions.
Third, it shows that Saudi Arabia has realized that it no longer needs to follow the lead of the west and can make independent decisions on how it deals with the wider world.
Fourth, it shows that the Chinese peace strategy, which focuses on respect for concerns and maintenance of communication, can work—and could end the conflict in Ukraine, as China has proposed.
BLOW TO WEST
Officially, the White House said it approves the deal. However, analysts admit that the news is a blow to the west, which has long demonized Iran, rained sanctions on it as an “enemy” nation, interfered in Middle Eastern politics, sold billions of dollars’ worth of weapons for use in Yemen, and vetoed talks-based solutions as resolutions to conflicts with countries perceived as U.S. enemies.
American leaders are now openly admitting that the war in Europe is positive for their country. “Weakening an adversary enhances our national security advantage, and it is being done without shedding American blood,” Mitt Romney, a senator, said on Monday (6 March 2023). For the same reason, some in the U.S. want a war with China, with the Taiwanese playing Ukraine’s role. However, China’s high level of patience has made that difficult to achieve.
But most people around the world will see the breakout of peace as a good thing, with the potential to alleviate enormous amounts of suffering in Iran and Yemen. Iranian foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “The return of normal relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia provides great capacities to the two countries, the region and the Islamic world. The neighbourhood policy, as the key axis of the government’s foreign policy, is strongly moving in the right direction, and the diplomatic apparatus is actively behind the preparation of more regional steps.”
Saudi Arabia has also been publicly upbeat about China this week. “China, for us, is an important and valued partner in many areas. We have excellent working relationships across many sectors,” Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud said earlier this week at a meeting in London.
STIRRING UP PROTESTS
In recent months, western media have been pushing a now rather discredited narrative about Iran. This said that morality police beat a woman named Mahsa Amini to death, after which a feminist named Masih Alinejad rose to lead “the people” in a struggle against Islamic tradition and call for increased US sanctions against their community.
However, a video showed that no one was touching Mahsa Amini when she had a heart attack, Alinejad was revealed to be a long-term employee of the United States government, and surveys showed that most Iranian women were enthusiastic about their Muslim faith, with a minority wanting to switch to American-style clothing. Anti-government groups were receiving help and finance from the west, in a now-standard technique known as “hybrid warfare”.
Image at the top by China Daily.