The Saudi-Iranian Cold War

James Brazier has a piece worth reading in Diplomatic Courrier on the Saudi-Iranian “Cold War” and how any accomodation of the Taliban in Afghanistan will come at the expense of Tehran. In terms of order, though, it seems obvious that a prior breakthrough on Israeli-Palestinian and/or Israeli-Syrian negotiations seriously strengthens Obama’s hand to bargain with the Iranians. But a political breakthrough that secures a meaningful stability in Afghanistan might have the same impact.

Again, it’s important to point out that the talks in Riyadh were exploratory, that the Taliban are an unsavory lot who will be difficult to sustain any sort of powersharing arrangement with, and that any breakthroughs on any of these fronts remain steadfastly in the speculative realm of Monday morning diplomats like myself. But it’s interesting how in the aftermath of the election, there suddenly seem to be more ways forward in terms of closing the circle around Tehran and getting it to come to the table than just last week. I’d hesitate to call it the Obama effect so much as the clean slate that a change in administrations offers. But the sudden liberation from the failed approaches of the past eight years leaves some room for bold, creative attempts. They might fail just as spectacularly, but at least they can be tried.

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