June 5, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran to Reopen Embassy in Saudi Arabia as Blinken Visits

June 5, 2023 | Flash Brief

Iran to Reopen Embassy in Saudi Arabia as Blinken Visits

Latest Developments

Iran is reopening its embassy and diplomatic offices in Saudi Arabia on June 6 after a seven-year freeze. The two countries made the decision in March, when Beijing hosted Saudi Arabian National Security Advisor Musaad bin Mohammed al-Aiban and Iranian National Security Council Secretary Ali Shamkhani for trilateral talks. Saudi Arabia and Iran cut ties in 2016 after Iranian protesters attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran in response to Riyadh’s execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will arrive in Saudi Arabia for a three-day trip on the same day as the embassy’s reopening ceremony. He and Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan al Saud will host a ministerial conference of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS. Blinken will hold another ministerial meeting with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Expert Analysis

“The clash between Vision 2030, the transformation of Saudi Arabia into a more peaceful and prosperous Sunni country, and Vision Khamenei, the supreme leader’s theology of violent Shiite supremacy, will guarantee that this temporary diplomatic reconciliation between Riyadh and Tehran will end in tears for the Saudis. Khamenei’s embassy in Riyadh will be a den of spies and instigators focused on undermining the security and peacefulness of the kingdom.” Mark Dubowitz, FDD CEO

“The Saudi-Iran story is actually a Saudi-China story, with the kingdom viewing the U.S. as an unreliable partner and Riyadh now testing out Beijing as an alternative security broker in the Middle East. As Secretary Blinken lays out a roadmap to dramatically upgrade the U.S.-Saudi partnership, he needs to articulate why betting on China is a losing hand for Saudi Arabia.” Richard Goldberg, FDD Senior Advisor

“With an Iranian embassy set to open in Riyadh, Washington should treat Iran’s diplomatic offensive as an opportunity to repair relations with traditional partners in the Middle East. Further strain with the pro-American Arab order will only lead to more hedging toward Iran and potentially even China and Russia.” Behnam Ben Taleblu, FDD Senior Fellow

Power Vacuum Left by U.S.

Ties between Iran and Gulf Arab states have long been strained. This relationship had further deteriorated in recent years as Gulf states saw America slowly withdrawing from the region and pursuing a new nuclear agreement with Iran. As a result, Riyadh sought a rapprochement with Tehran to fill the region’s power vacuum.

The Biden administration has not opposed the improved relationship between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Asked about the issue on June 2, Daniel Benaim, the State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula Affairs, said, “any efforts that help to end the war in Yemen and to de-escalate tensions in the region are welcome, and this has been a topic of ongoing effort across the region.”

Related Analysis

Saudi Arabia, Iran Agree to Reestablish Diplomatic Ties,” FDD Flash Brief

The United States and Saudi Arabia: A Possible Path Forward,” by Bradley Bowman, Orde Kittrie, and Ryan Brobst

Biden’s diplomacy without deadlines erodes US-Gulf alliance,” by Hussain Abdul-Hussain


Arab Politics China Gulf States Iran