Thursday October 12, 2017
The remark Wednesday by the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister and Presidential envoy for the Middle East Mikhail Bogdanov offering Moscow’s mediation for a rapprochement between Riyadh and Tehran comes within the week of the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s talks with President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. Bogdanov was on a visit to Rabat and probably had the Middle East audience in view. He knew most certainly that the weekend is approaching when the US President Donald Trump is expected to outline a new containment strategy against Iran.
Bogdanov’s remark profiles Russia as a unique peacemaker in the centre stage of Middle East politics. No great power ever seriously toyed with such a tantalizing idea. But how realistic is the idea?
An essay penned by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in the Atlantic magazine recently takes a panoramic view of the troubled relations between his country and its neighbours. The title of the essay aptly sums up its thesis – Foreign meddling has wrought a fractured Middle East. The heart of the matter is that the problematic relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia is not a ‘bilateral’ issue – nor can it be regarded as an issue of ‘reconciliation’. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia does not represent the Sunni Arab states, either. Nonetheless, Bogdanov is also right when he says that it becomes easier to resolve the burning problems of the Middle East (such as Syria, Iraq or Yemen) if Saudi Arabia and Iran could work together.