In a prime-time television interview four years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia dismissed the idea that his kingdom could somehow find an accommodation with its archrival, Iran.
“How do we communicate?” he asked. “The mutual points that we can agree on with this regime are almost nonexistent.”
Now, Prince Mohammed is finding those points as he embarks on a diplomatic effort to defuse tensions between the two regional powers that have underpinned conflicts across the Middle East.
Last month, the chief of Saudi intelligence began secret talks with a senior Iranian security official in Baghdad to discuss several areas of contention, including the war in Yemen and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Iraqi and Iranian officials said.
And in a television interview this past week, Prince Mohammed cast the kingdom’s view of Iran in a new light, saying that his country objected to “certain negative behaviors” but hoped to “build a good and positive relationship with Iran that would benefit all parties.”
While concrete signs of a new understanding between Saudi Arabia and Iran have yet to emerge and could take a long time, if they happen at all, even a cooling of tempers between the adversaries could echo in countries where their rivalry fuels political feuds and armed conflicts, including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. [Continue reading…]