Why is it in the news?
- In recent diplomatic developments, United States President Joe Biden is set to visit Israel and Jordan, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been on a tour of various Middle Eastern countries.
- Notably, there has been no diplomatic outreach to Iran, despite its regional influence and ongoing US sanctions.
- Many in the Western world perceive Iran as having played a role in enabling the Hamas assault on October 7.
An Expert Analysis
Iran’s Actions Since the Hamas Attack on Israel
- Denied direct involvement in planning and executing the Hamas attack but has historically supported Hamas.
- It raised concerns about Israeli bombardment of Gaza, displacement of Gazans, and humanitarian situation.
- The Iranian Foreign Minister toured the region, meeting with Hezbollah and Hamas leaders.
- It urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene an emergency meeting on Gaza crisis.
Iran-Saudi Arabia Relations and Their Role
- Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a significant telephone conversation regarding the Gaza crisis. This conversation is noteworthy as it marks the first contact between the two leaders since the resumption of diplomatic relations in March 2023, facilitated by China’s mediation. This diplomatic re-engagement led to the reopening of embassies in Riyadh and Tehran.
- Saudi Arabia had been engaged in negotiations with Israel to normalize relations, with encouragement from the United States. This indicates Saudi Arabia’s shift in its stance towards Israel under international pressure and support from the U.S., as the normalization of relations would have significant geopolitical implications.
- Iran sees the potential normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel as a threat, as it could bolster Israel’s position in the region and undermine Iran’s influence.
- Saudi Arabia is concerned about the increasing Iranian influence in several countries, including Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. Saudi Arabia perceives Iran’s growing influence as a regional security threat, which has not been completely mitigated by the resumption of diplomatic relations.
- Israel considers a potential agreement with Saudi Arabia important in countering the Iranian threat. Israel sees Saudi Arabia as a potential ally against Iran, and a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia would enhance its regional strategic position.
- The current pause in negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Israel benefits Iran strategically. The suspension of negotiations allows Iran to navigate regional dynamics more favourably, given its concerns about Saudi-Israeli collaboration as a response to Iran’s influence in the region.
Iran’s Relationship with Palestinians
|Impact of the 1979 Iranian Revolution||– The 1979 Iranian Revolution significantly shaped Iran’s foreign policy, particularly in relation to the Middle East.|
– It promoted a strong emphasis on supporting the Palestinian cause and opposing Zionism as core elements of Iran’s ideology and foreign policy.
|Handing Over of Israeli Embassy to PLO||– One of the earliest actions taken by Iran’s new regime after the revolution was to symbolically hand over the Israeli embassy in Tehran to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).|
– This act demonstrated Iran’s unwavering commitment to the Palestinian struggle and its opposition to Israel.
|Declaration of Al-Quds Day||– Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of the Iranian Revolution, declared the last Friday of Ramadan as Al-Quds Day (Jerusalem Day).|
– Al-Quds Day serves as an annual occasion for Iranians and others in the Muslim world to express their solidarity with the Palestinian cause and show support for the liberation of Jerusalem.
|Setback in Iranian-PLO Relations||– During the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the relationship between Iran and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) suffered a setback.|
– PLO leader Yasser Arafat’s support for Iraq’s Saddam Hussein strained relations, as Iran and Iraq were bitter adversaries during the war. Iran criticized the PLO for its alignment with Iraq and negotiations with Israel.
|Formation of “Axis of Resistance”||– In response to challenges in its relationship with the PLO, Iran shifted its focus to creating an “axis of resistance” against Israel.|
– This axis involved collaborating with emerging forces in Palestine and Lebanon that shared Iran’s anti-Israel stance.
|Role of Hezbollah and Hamas||– Hezbollah, a Shiite organization founded in Lebanon in 1982, drew inspiration from the Iranian Revolution and received substantial support from Iran.|
– Hamas, a predominantly Sunni organization that emerged during the Palestinian Intifada (uprising) of 1987, became a key Iranian ally. This alliance of Sunni and Shiite groups raised questions among observers about the notion of a “Shiite Crescent.”
|Escalation in Gaza Conflict and Regional Implications||– Ongoing conflicts in Gaza have resulted in clashes between Israel and Hezbollah, sparking concerns about broader regional implications.|
– Iran’s involvement in these conflicts, as well as its long-standing confrontation with Israel, has attracted increased international attention and scrutiny of Iran’s activities in the Middle East.
|Israeli View of Iran||– Israel regards Iran as its foremost regional adversary and has taken various measures, both direct and indirect, to curtail Iran’s nuclear program and limit its regional influence.|
|Iran’s Awareness of Regional Escalation||– Iran is acutely aware that any regional escalation could have adverse consequences for its domestic situation, as it grapples with the economic challenges posed by American-led sanctions and seeks to stabilize its economy.|