he invitation extended to attend the swearing-in ceremony of the newly elected Egyptian president Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in Cairo on Sunday didn’t exactly come out of the blue. Tehran got five days to mull over the invitation and it decided to depute Deputy Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian, FO’s topmost diplomat on Arab affairs, to represent President Hassan Rouhani who was on a visit to Turkey. It’s been a measured response in diplomatic terms — appropriate but not effusive,
However, the highlight of Amir Abdollahian’s stay in Cairo was his meeting with the Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. He later said the meeting was “constructive”. [ here : ▻http://english.farsnews.com/print.aspx?nn=13930320001433].
The meeting is a diplomatic scoop for Tehran.
Riyadh has been flooding Tehran with invitations to senior Iranian officials to visit Saudi Arabia (including Foreign Minister Mohammad Zarif and Expediency Council chairman Hashemi Rafsanjani), but no visit has been worked out so far. Meanwhile, Tehran has been focusing on building up its ties with Saudi Arabia’s GCC partners as well as Turkey and Egypt.
What does this rapid flow of events add up to? Clearly, in a nutshell, Middle Eastern politics is entering an altogether new era with Iran’s integration with the West. In sum, intra-regional politics has surged to the centre stage.
There was a time when the US ensured that Egypt and Iran didn’t draw close together. From all appearance, the US’ influence has waned on the Nile banks. On the other hand, US diplomacy may be acquiring greater flexibility.
The US’ bilateral talks with Iran this week in Geneva have reverberated all over the Middle East, including in Cairo. Meanwhile, the ‘Obama Doctrine’ is also at work. Nothing brings this out more vividly than that the Obama administration is quietly fostering a Saudi-Iranian normalization.
With a successful visit by Rouhani to Ankara and the warming up of Iran-Egypt ties, it is about time Tehran gets around to mending relations with Riyadh. Conceivably, Amir Abdollahian’s meeting in Cairo with the Saudi Crown Prince aimed at preparing the ground for a pathbreaking visit by a senior Iranian official to Riyadh. To my mind, the Iranian-Saudi ‘thaw’ is on the cards, finally. The Middle Eastern politics is tiptoeing toward a paradigm shift.
By M K Bhadrakumar – June 12, 2014