“There is obviously a regional direction that goes in tandem with the Saudi movement,” Mohammed Baharun, CEO of the Dubai Public Policy Research Center, told CNN.
Dina Esfandiari, a Middle East adviser at the International Crisis Group think tank, said the Gulf Arab states have developed a “pragmatic policy” towards Iran that includes both deterrence and engagement “because they realized that only one of them won’t work on its own.”
She told CNN that when the US failed to protect its Arab partners after the attacks on Aramco, “it became necessary [for the UAE] protect yourself without relying on others – particularly the US – and engaging with Iran is part of that.”
“Financially and commercially, the UAE has the most to gain from a reduction in regional tensions,” Abdulhalek Abdullah, a professor of political science in the UAE, told CNN. “Even at the time of the greatest political tension between the two countries, trade has not been interrupted. It went down, but it didn’t stop.”
The rapprochement comes amid uncertainty over the course of indirect talks between the US and Iran to restore the nuclear deal. If there is a new agreement, it could reduce the likelihood of a nuclear arms race in an already tense region. But the Gulf states fear that lifting sanctions on Iran will unlock billions of dollars that Tehran can use to further arm and expand its influence in the Arab countries through puppets.
If the talks fail, observers say regional tensions could escalate, as they did when then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from the agreement, potentially drawing the region into war. For the Gulf states, both scenarios are worrisome.
“For the Gulf Arabs, returning to a nuclear deal or not is more or less the same thing: they expect Iran to strike in the region regardless of the outcome,” Esfandiari said. “So, while they continue to keep a close eye on this, efforts to improve their communications are more closely tied to their perceptions of security and threats than the nuclear deal itself.”
Abdullah said Iran remains a major security threat to the Persian Gulf “with or without a nuclear deal.” “So one of the ways to deal with Iran is to keep talking and find common ground for good neighborly relations.”
Saudi Arabia and Bahrain are the only Arab countries in the Persian Gulf that do not have an ambassador in Tehran.
Iran said on Monday that talks with Saudi Arabia were not linked to talks to revive the nuclear pact, adding that cooperation between Tehran and Riyadh could help restore calm and security in the Middle East.
The resumption of diplomatic relations is “not a panacea,” Baharun said. “Nevertheless, this is an important step. Diplomatic ties are lines of communication that directly help reduce and manage tensions. [We] there can be no cooperation if we don’t talk to each other.”
US says Iran is ditching key demand as progress on nuclear deal revival moves forward
A senior US administration official told CNN on Friday that Iran has abandoned a key “red line” demand that was a major stumbling block in efforts to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. The Iranians have also dropped demands related to the delisting of several companies associated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the official said. Iran on Monday said the US “has not yet responded to the proposals of the European side” and accused the US of “delaying” the talks.
- Background: US President Joe Biden has been insisting for months that he will not revoke the IRGC’s terrorist status in order to revive the nuclear deal. The policy is one of several foreign policy decisions made by Trump that Biden backs. Trump named the IRGC a terrorist organization in 2019 as part of a “maximum pressure campaign” imposed after he backed out of a deal in 2018.
- Why is it important: In its response last week to the draft nuclear deal proposed by the European Union, which the EU called the “final” draft, Iran did not demand that the IRGC be removed from the US list of terrorist organizations, an Iranian official said. said. “The current version of the text and what they are demanding is discarding it,” the official said. “So if we’re closer to a deal, that’s why.”
Landslide hits Shiite shrine in Iraq, killing at least 7 people
At least seven people were killed Saturday when a landslide hit a Shiite mosque west of Iraq’s Karbala province, according to the Interior Ministry. The total number of people trapped under the rubble is still unknown.
- Background: The incident happened on Saturday when a large hill adjacent to the shrine of Qattar Imam Ali slipped due to moisture saturation, according to a statement from the Iraqi Civil Defense. The landslide hit the roof of the temple, which then collapsed onto the visitors. Civil Defense said on Sunday that five bodies had been recovered from the rubble of the temple so far. On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi instructed the Interior Minister to closely monitor the rescue efforts and mobilize civil defense and medical services to ensure the safety of the injured and rescue civilians trapped under the rubble.
- Why is it important: Iraq is mired in the worst and longest political crisis in recent years. At the center of this conflict is Iraqi political leader Muqtada al-Sadr and a rival bloc of parties with close ties to neighboring Iran. In his first comments on the landslide, al-Sadr said that the corruption of the authorities is now affecting places of worship. “Once again, suspicions of corruption led to civilian casualties. But this time, corruption has affected places of worship… We call on the government for an immediate and serious investigation to reveal the truth, so that corruption does not affect mosques and places of worship, as it did with the institutions and ministries of the country,” he said.
The plane was unable to descend due to the fact that the pilots fell asleep during the flight
- Background: Aviation analyst Alex Machairas has since taken to Twitter to express his shock at the “deeply disturbing incident” that he suggests could be the result of pilot exhaustion. “Pilot fatigue is nothing new and continues to pose one of the biggest threats to aviation safety – internationally,” he wrote on Thursday.
- Why is it important: The report comes just months after Southwest Airlines and Delta Air Lines pilots warned airline executives in a letter that pilot fatigue was on the rise and urged them to treat fatigue and the resulting errors as a safety risk. Growing demand for air travel as the industry begins to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and the chaos with cancellations caused by severe weather were among the reasons for increased pilot fatigue, according to the letter.
The Iraqi Foreign Ministry has recalled its ambassador to Jordan after photos of him and his wife with a famous Lebanese singer caused a social media storm.
In the photos, Ambassador Haidar Al-Athari and his wife pose with music star Rageb Alama. All three stand very close to each other, with Al Atari’s wife in the middle.
Some netizens accused the ambassador and his wife of breaking diplomatic protocol by hugging the singer, while others denounced the dispute as a storm in a teacup for a country facing many challenges. Much of the criticism was directed at the ambassador’s wife, who is seen holding the singer’s hand in one of the shots.