March 15, 2023

Top US Diplomat: We Encouraged Gulf Allies to Talk with Iran

Source: Diplomatic

Journalist: Laura Rozen

Former Defense Department official Jonathan Lord agreed that much of the legwork for the Saudi Iran restoration of diplomatic ties had been started before China got involved.

“China, of course, is going to trumpet this and use this to sort of extend their position internationally as some sort of international broker,” Lord, now with the Center for New American Security, said in an interview. “But the truth is that Tehran and Riyadh have been working towards this for at least two years. It's quite possible that all of this was very close… before they moved to Beijing. That really just kind of put a stamp on it.”

Lord also cast doubt on the suggestion from some in Washington and Israel that the Saudi Iranian rapprochement reflected a failure by the Biden administration to provide enough inducements to Saudi Arabia to agree to normalize relations with Israel.

“The truth of the matter is, I'm not sure…that there's a level of cooperation that the US could provide that will put the Saudis in a position where they wouldn’t want to have diplomatic relations with a neighbor,” Lord said. “That itself is a stabilizing element, no matter what.”

Lord suggested that the Saudi Iran deal might, counterintuitively, provide the Saudis cover for deepening their behind the scenes cooperation with Israel.

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  • Jonathan Lord

    Senior Fellow and Director, Middle East Security Program

    Jonathan Lord is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security program at CNAS. Prior to joining CNAS, Lord served as a professional staff member for the House Arme...