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Why the Middle East needs Saudi-Iranian rapprochement

Implementation of the nuclear deal is the biggest challenge for President Hassan Rowhani...

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Published: Updated:

A prominent Iranian clergyman living in the West recently told me US Secretary of State John Kerry told him he was willing to visit Tehran.

I replied that I would be happier to hear that the Saudi foreign minister wanted to visit Tehran - that would be more helpful given the regional situation. While a visit by Kerry is possible, it certainly would not happen in the near future.

Currently, implementation of the nuclear deal is the biggest challenge for the government of President Hassan Rowhani, and most Iranians blame Washington for the difficulties.

Hope for rapprochement following the deal has been dashed by the supreme leader and his supporters, who believe the United Sates poses the biggest threat to them.

Hurdles

With this mentality, and confrontational behavior toward Iran’s neighbors, achieving meaningful diplomatic progress over Yemen and Syria looks difficult. Last week, Kerry called on Tehran to help bring peace to both countries, but what help can Rowhani give when he is under pressure from hardliners? His priorities are implementing the nuclear deal and improving the economy.

While everyone wants an end to the bloodshed in Syria and Yemen, there are no direct contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia - both major regional players - to discuss these issues

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

Washington and its Western allies can help Iran play a productive regional and international role by boosting its economy. However, they cannot influence its relations with countries in the region amid mutual animosity and accusations of meddling in each other’s internal affairs.

Restrictions on buying Iranian oil have been lifted, but there is little room in the market if Saudi Arabia will not decrease production. Iran’s oil minister has vowed to increase production, but this will drive prices down, to the detriment of both countries.

While everyone wants an end to the bloodshed in Syria and Yemen, there are no direct contacts between Iran and Saudi Arabia - both major regional players - to discuss these issues, since Riyadh severed ties in January following attacks against its diplomatic missions in Iran.

Regional peace is unlikely without both countries resolving their differences. They have never had excellent relations, not even during the shah’s reign, but at least there was mutual understanding and respect at the time.
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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.