Iran-Saudi Pact: A Delusion Made in China 

Hazem El Amin
Lebanese Writer and Journalist

“We will have some fun while waiting for the agreement to fall apart and the war between Tehran and Riyadh to erupt again in our beloved little Lebanon.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran have agreed to restore their broken diplomatic ties through Chinese mediation. Thus screamed the international headlines following an agreement brokered in Beijing. 

The two nations, who have a history of starting (civil) wars, have agreed to reopen their embassies and dispatch ambassadors. Optimism has risen on both sides of the Sunni-Shia divide that bisects the region. 

However, did the pact cover the (civil) wars in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Palestine? 

The fractures in the region are too deep to be mended by a, most likely, fleeting agreement, as discord has spread to places where the desire for war surpasses the desire for peace. 

Unlike Washington, China is not involved in the specifics of the conflict. And, although important, economic alliances cannot mend a  rupture that has been in place for centuries, and is regularly evoked, as illustrated most recently by the uproar regarding “Mu’awiya,” a TV series on the life of the first Umayyad caliph.

The Chinese-sponsored deal was created out of thin air. What does China represent for both countries? An important trading partner? But is that enough? 

Those eager to be optimistic about the agreement probably need to be patient. There are no clear results yet. Saudi Arabia has an account to settle with Washington and, off late, with Abu Dhabi as well, while Iran is crippled by Western sanctions. China has no influence over most of the conflict’s frontlines and as such offers no way out of the bottlenecks. 

Those representing the so-called “axis of resistance,” who are not afraid  of the consequences a speech demonizing Al Saud will have for the region, have been celebrating the agreement. They believe what happened is a victory for the “Eastern Choice.”  Yet those applauding the”Chinese “achievement” have always been drowning in an inch of water, and have always disappointedly returned to their positions afterwards.

What did Saudi Arabia and Iran agree on? Ending the war in Yemen? A president for the Republic of Lebanon? What about the Palestinian conflict? The Syrian deadlock? And is Iraq part of the deal? 

These are issues that need years of negotiation, teams, delegations, details, and discussions following a declaration of willingness to resolve them. It is not enough for the two “civil-war states” to declare their intention to resolve them. 

In addition, Washington’s absence from the agreement keeps it one-sided. And the absence of Tel Aviv and Cairo, not to mention Abu Dhabi and Oman is significant. 

As it stands, the agreement is merely an attempt by the two nations to escape their own chaos: Iran facing Western sanctions and Saudi Arabia dealing with Washington. Meanwhile, the need for war still exists, and the conflict infrastructure, which has seen enormous investments for years, still stands.

We may see a truce on some of the frontlines. But it will not go beyond that. Will Saudi Arabia accept a Houthi-led country on its border? Will Iran dismantle Hezbollah in Lebanon? Without such conditions, what illusion does this “solution” represent? 

Farming on Balconies

Suddenly, China has become aware of its potential and shoved aside the US in the Middle East, thus achieving what the West could not  accomplish for years!

To believe this is to think that farming on balconies is a solution to the collapse of the Lebanese economy. 

The East has come to topple years of Western supremacy, along with many other intentions. Yet, the conflict itself will not find a way out to cease to exist. Only the rhetoric will be muddled. 

An economically expanding China is not involved in the specifics of the conflict. And the interest in war and conflict goes way beyond the desire to confound America. We have been told that the devil is in the details. Well, if that is so, what is China’s position on the Gaza crisis? The Yemen civil war?  The Lebanese presidential dispute? 

In the dystopian East we have witnessed many moments when we believed that conflicts, deep and fundamental, would be overcome by agreement. Do you remember, after years of tension, the agreement between Syria and Saudi Arabia on how to handle the Lebanese crisis following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, which was mediated by France? 

That agreement between Syria and Saudi Arabia, known in Arabic as the S-S agreement, as the Saudis believed the compromise would win them back Bashar al-Assad. But then what? The S-S agreement, Lebanon and Syria all collapsed.

As both Iran and Saudi Arabia have systems in place that initiate wars in other countries, a simple agreement is not enough to change the nature of the regimes that are at the center of the sectarian divide in the region – a fact both Beijing and Washington have used to establish their dominance in the region. Only regime change could “heal” the fracture.

Still, there is something amusing about the whole deal. The massive propaganda structures that have been set up by the two nations will go in overdrive. What will happen to the conflict’s media tools, personalities and preachers? How will the editorials from Lebanon’s Al-Akhbar newspaper now differ from those of Saudi daily Okaz? 

We will have some fun while waiting for the agreement to fall apart and the war between Tehran and Riyadh to erupt again in our beloved little Lebanon.

لتصلكم نشرة درج الى بريدكم الالكتروني