The theater of diplomacy in the Middle East recently saw the unveiling of two secret initiatives. The Saudis and Iranians, sworn enemies of the region, met in April in Iraq, and last week the allied leaders of Israel and Jordan spoke at the presidential palace in the Arab country.
Leaks of “secret diplomacy” by the international media identify the search for accommodation in the Joe Biden era in two chapters of the Middle Eastern scenario.
While Donald Trump has prioritized “maximum pressure” on Iran and downplayed the importance of dialogue with the Jordanians and Palestinians, the current US government is betting on a program to broaden negotiations and reduce regional political tension. higher.
Trump has invested in bringing Israel closer to the conservative Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf, led by Saudi Arabia, as a tool to confront the Iranian theocracy. Biden will maintain the option, but with significant flexibility: attempting to resume the nuclear pact with Iran, resuming dialogue with moderate Palestinian leaders, and pushing for changes in Saudi strategies.
And the secret meetings of the past few months reflect these changes. Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, received emissaries from Riyadh and Tehran, whose diplomatic relations were severed in 2016. The two countries are in a historic dispute for leadership in the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia leads the Arab and Sunni world, while Iran symbolizes Persian nationalism. and the Shiite mainstream of Islam.
The Saudis and Iranians engage in battles for spheres of influence, supporting opposing parties in political or military conflicts on arenas such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Rivalry also contaminates the Palestinian scene, with Tehran’s support for Hamas fundamentalism, and Persian Gulf monarchies betting on leaders ready to engage in dialogue with Israel.
Saudi-Iranian antagonism is reflected in the tragedy of the war in Yemen, a conflict responsible for the deaths of over 233,000 people and waves of hunger and destruction. While Tehran lends its support to the Houthi rebels, Riyadh leads the military alliance for the benefit of the Yemeni government.
The White House is pushing to end the disaster in Yemen. And Saudi Arabia, in search of a compromise with its American ally, has sat at the table of its Iranian rival, which is seeking, through diplomacy, financial resources to face its dramatic economic crisis. The next episode of the Saudi-Iranian dialogue is expected to take place in Oman, with no date yet set. And far from the diplomatic secrecy of the previous phase.
But a smokescreen has engulfed the conversation between Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Jordan’s King Abdullah. The dialogue places Jordan, virtually ignored by Trump, again at the epicenter of Middle East diplomacy.
Biden and Bennett agree on the importance of the Arab country to regional stability, given its geographic position, demographic profile, and religious leadership. The monarchy is home to a large population of Palestinian descent, has fundamental ties to sites sacred to Islam in Jerusalem, and shares borders with conflict scenarios such as Syria and Iraq.
Abdullah travels to the United States on the 19th to meet Biden, months after facing an internal crisis described as an attempt to oust him from power. The White House offers resounding support for the monarch, the first Arab leader to be received with great fanfare in Washington.
And far from the shadows of secret diplomacy.
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