Saudi-Iran Deal: Israel left alone in efforts to isolate Iran

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (Caasimada Online) – The recent announcement of a breakthrough in diplomatic relations between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran has sent shockwaves throughout the Middle East.

The historic deal, which follows over a year of negotiations, represents a significant shift in Middle Eastern diplomacy and has left many cautiously optimistic.

However, the agreement has also dealt a symbolic blow to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long prioritized the threat posed by Tehran in his public diplomacy efforts and personal crusade.

A History of rivalry and conflict

Saudi Arabia and Iran have a long history of rivalry and conflict. The two countries have frequently found themselves on opposite sides of regional conflicts, with Saudi Arabia backing Sunni factions and Iran supporting Shiite groups.

This rivalry has played out in several countries, including Yemen and Syria, where the two sides have been in a devastating proxy war.

In recent years, tensions between the two countries have been further exacerbated by Iran’s nuclear program and the development of its regional proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Israel, which considers Iran its greatest regional threat, has been actively seeking to isolate and oppose Tehran while also building alliances with other Arab states to counter Iran’s influence in the region. 

The broader implications of the Saudi-Iran deal

The recent breakthrough in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran represents one of the most striking shifts in Middle Eastern diplomacy in recent years.

The deal gives the two countries two months to reopen their respective embassies and re-establish ties after seven years of rupture.

While the announcement has stirred cautious optimism in countries like Yemen and Syria, it has also caused disappointment in Israel, where it is viewed as a blow to Netanyahu’s efforts to isolate and oppose Iran.

Netanyahu has long portrayed himself as the only politician capable of protecting Israel from Iran’s nuclear program and regional proxies.

His foreign policy triumphs include Israel’s U.S.-brokered normalization deals in 2020 with four Arab states, including Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, which were part of a wider push to isolate and oppose Iran in the region.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict

One of the main obstacles to a normalization deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel has been the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The kingdom has said it will not officially recognize Israel before a resolution to the conflict is reached.

However, experts say that the recent deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran has dealt a blow to Netanyahu’s efforts to form an anti-Iran bloc in the region, a cornerstone of his foreign policy agenda.

Implications for Yemen and Syria

Both sides have been guarded but hopeful about the recent deal in Yemen, where the Saudi-Iran rivalry has played out with devastating consequences.

In 2015, the Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen’s conflict, which had escalated after the Iran-backed Houthi militias seized Sanaa, the capital, in 2014. As a result, the internationally recognized government was forced into exile in Saudi Arabia.

While analysts believe that an immediate settlement to the conflict is unlikely, direct talks and improved relations could generate momentum for a separate agreement that would enable both countries to exit the disastrous war.

War-torn Syria has also expressed its approval of the agreement as a measure towards reducing tensions that have worsened the country’s conflict.

The Syrian Foreign Ministry called the agreement an “important step to strengthen regional security and stability.”

The government of President Bashar Assad has received significant backing from Iran.  In contrast, Saudi Arabia has supported opposition fighters trying to remove him from power.

Internal politics in Israel

In Israel, the recent Saudi-Iran deal has become ensnared in the country’s internal politics, reflecting the deep divisions that have emerged at a moment of national turmoil.

Politicians from across the political spectrum have seized on the rapprochement to criticize Netanyahu’s foreign policy agenda and his focus on personal interests over the country’s international relations.

Netanyahu’s goal of formal ties with Saudi Arabia has been a long-standing objective of his foreign policy agenda.

However, the recent breakthrough in diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran has dealt a blow to his ambitions.

The kingdom’s decision to engage with its regional rival has left Israel alone in its efforts to isolate and oppose Iran and threats of a unilateral military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Even Netanyahu’s allies have expressed disappointment and disconcertment about the rapprochement.

Some note that the recent deal has thrown cold water on their ambitions of achieving peace with Saudi Arabia.

They have also emphasized that a diplomatic win for Iran is bad news for Israel, given the long-standing animosity and rivalry between the two countries.

Experts have pointed out that a detente between Saudi Arabia and Iran is not necessarily bad news for Even if Saudi Arabia and Iran establish embassies in each other’s capitals, they will continue to be regional adversaries.

Additionally, similar to the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia could enhance its relationship with Israel while also having a transactional association with Iran.