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A New Order in the Middle East?

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A New Order in the Middle East?

Iran and Saudi Arabia’s Rapprochement Could Transform the Region

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
3 take-aways
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Saudi Arabia is rethinking its strategic alliances to enhance its security and global standing. 

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Professors Maria Fantappie and Vali Nasr examine the changes unfolding in the Middle East, where old alliances are shifting and new relationships are forming. Saudi Arabia is working to reduce tensions with Iran and foster ties with China, a geopolitical realignment that could help the kingdom enhance its security and attain a higher profile in world affairs. This illuminating report offers a solid background on the transformations underway in the Middle East as well as an explanation why the United States should reconsider its current diplomatic approach to the region.


The normalization of relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia will affect the entire region.

Long-time rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran are moving toward a détente of sorts. This easing of tensions could bring about a major power shift, eliminating a bitter rivalry and developing a series of economic and geopolitical relationships in the region. Diplomatic efforts have been ongoing for some time to bring the two regional powers together, to make progress on nuclear negotiations and to end the proxy war in Yemen. Washington, DC, encouraged a tie-up between Israel and the Gulf Cooperative Council (GCC), a regional alliance of Gulf states, in an effort to keep Iran at bay. 

Yet the Saudis chose to work through China instead: The two nations announced an agreement to normalize their diplomatic relations in ...

About the Authors

Maria Fantappie is an associate fellow at the Istituto Affari Internazionali in Rome. Vali Nasr is a professor of international affairs and Middle East studies at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies.

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