China-brokered Iran-Saudi deal raises red flags for US

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An agreement struck by Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday to re-establish relations has shifted concerns back to the state of the U.S. role in the Middle East — especially since the deal was brokered by Washington’s main adversary, China.

The diplomatic agreement, reached after four days of talks with senior security officials in Beijing, eases tensions between the Middle East powers after seven years of hostilities.

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia announced they will resume diplomatic relations and open up embassies once again in their respective nations within two months, according to a joint statement.

Alex Vatanka, the director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute, said the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal was an important agreement for the region but questioned whether it would put an end to any violence, including in war-torn Yemen.

“It remains to be seen if they can have a meaningful dialogue. Opening up embassies is not the same as having a meaningful dialogue,” Vatanka said. “There will be a steep journey ahead.”

Saudi Arabia, a dominant Sunni Muslim country, cut ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters stormed the nation’s embassy in Iran after the execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric along with the execution of other prisoners.

Both nations have also been on opposing sides of the deadly civil war in Yemen, with Saudi Arabia supporting Yemen’s government and Iran backing the opposition Houthis.

The news on Friday was a diplomatic and political success for Beijing, which also recently published a peace plan to end the war in Ukraine.