Iranian Diplomats Arrive in Saudi To Take up Organization of Islamic Cooperation Posts

Three Iranian diplomats have arrived in Saudi Arabia for the first time in six years to begin work in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. This marks an opening of dialogue between long-time rivals to restore Iran and Saudi relations since the two countries cut diplomatic ties in 2016.

“Three Iranian diplomats have arrived in Jeddah to start their work at the OIC,” said the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh. He went on to say, “We hope to reach a result in the future talks…which requires Saudi officials to pay attention to their remarks and actions.” The OIC is an international organization that consists of 49 Muslim countries. Its mission is to safeguard and protect the interests of the Muslim world and promote international peace and harmony.

Iran and Saudi Arabia have been fighting for influence over the Middle East along religious and political lines since 1960. Both nations have supported opposing forces in regional conflicts such as the 2011 Arab Spring and the proxy war in Yemen. Another notable conflict occurred in 2016 when Iranian protestors attacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran as a result of the execution of Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, a revered and outspoken leader in the Shia minority group in Saudi Arabia.

The competing political and ideological visions of each nations’ majority are interconnected with the broader national rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Each country has an opposing Islamic sect as their majority group, with each group following the Sunni and Shia faith respectively. The majority of the Saudis follow an ultra-conservative sect of the Sunni faith and Iranians mostly follow the Shia faith. The main divide between the two sects is based on their disagreement on the true successor of the prophet Mohammed.

Iran and Saudi Arabia’s support for regional conflicts in the Middle East had devastating effects on civilians in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. According to the UN refugee agency, tens of thousands of people have been killed in Yemen as a result of regional conflicts and more than 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance. Six million Syrians were displaced from their homes and half a million were killed during the war. Iran and Saudi Arabia must negotiate and terminate their military support for regional conflicts. While there is more progress needed to restore Iran-Saudi relations, these negotiations mark a good starting point for the two countries to restore diplomatic ties and maintain a greater degree of peace in the Middle East.