Saudi Arabia, Iran and China Offer the U.S. a Lesson in Pragmatism

Saudi Arabia, Iran and China Offer the U.S. a Lesson in Pragmatism
Iran’s national security adviser, Ali Shamkhani; China’s senior diplomat, Wang Yi; and Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser, Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban, sign the agreement reestablishing diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, in Beijing, China, March 10, 2023 (Nournews photo via AP).

Last Friday, Saudi Arabia and Iran announced that they have reached an agreement to reestablish diplomatic ties and reopen their respective embassies in two months’ time. The agreement, which was mediated by China and announced at a signing ceremony in Beijing, comes after a seven-year diplomatic rift that began in 2016, when Saudi Arabia executed a Shiite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, on terrorism charges, and Iranian protesters stormed the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in reaction.

Nimr had been an outspoken advocate for Shiite rights in Saudi Arabia, including access to oil revenue, and a vocal critic of the royal family. The Saudi authorities arrested him in 2012, accusing him of spreading sectarian strife and creating instability. Iranian media embraced him as a hero, then as a martyr after his execution in 2016.

Rather than signaling a resolution of the regional conflicts fueled by the enmity between Riyadh and Tehran, the new agreement can be read as a response by Saudi Arabia to what it sees as lukewarm support by the U.S. on countering Iran. It is also a pragmatic move by China to safeguard its interests in the Middle East.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review