April 14, 2014 | Quote

Warmer US-Iran Ties Would Not Undermine Saudis

Although Saudi Arabia is skeptical of a US-Iranian rapprochement and the kingdom faces lost oil revenue if sanctions are dropped against Tehran, it will remain a regional heavyweight, experts said.

David Weinberg, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, sees Saudi Arabia as always being “in the driver’s seat” because its vast oil supplies give it influence over global oil prices.

“Similarly, Saudi Arabia is clearly viewed as an important stakeholder with regard to pressing regional security issues, such as Syria and Egypt. Yet the United States is pursuing policies in areas such as Iran and Syria that the Saudis clearly do not care for,” he said.

“Further, there are major differences of opinion as to whether Saudi Arabia uses its international influence constructively or for short-sighted objectives; for instance, propping up yet another dictatorship in Egypt or bolstering dangerous jihadists in Syria.”

Weinberg added that President Hassan Rouhani’s camp in Tehran believes there are advantages in pursuing engagement with Saudi Arabia.

“The Saudis have indicated that they may be open to a visit by former Iranian President [Akbar Hashemi] Rafsanjani, but obviously, such a visit has yet to transpire.”

The Saudis pursued their own engagement effort with Iran in the 1990s at America’s expense, Weinberg said, slowing down America’s investigation into the bombings at Khobar (apparently facilitated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard) as a bargaining chip in their relationship with Tehran.

“However, an Iranian-Saudi understanding is much less likely, given the decade of confrontation between Sunni Arabs and Iran’s Shiite clients in places like Iraq and Syria,” he said.

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