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Saudi-Iranian Nuclear Deal Possible, Says Chairman Of Iran’s Atomic Organization

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Saudi-Iranian Nuclear Deal Possible, Says Chairman Of Iran’s Atomic Organization

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Written by Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts

According to Mehr News Agency (Iran’s semi-official news agency), Iran is “ready” to cooperate with Saudi Arabia in the nuclear field. In a tremendously underreported development, Mohammad Eslami, the chairman of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) held talks with Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to Iran, Abdullah bin Saud Al-Anazi, on the sidelines of the 1st International Conference on Nuclear Science and Technology and the 30th National Nuclear Conference in Isfahan on May 6 – and the possibility of such nuclear cooperation was discussed.

Earlier this year, in January, the Saudi Ambassador, Al-Anazi, had urged expanding scientific ties between the two countries. Journalist Sabir Hussain, writing for The Express Tribune even sees this as a “lesson” for Pakistan and India, arguing that “if former adversaries like Iran and Saudi Arabia can embark on a path of nuclear cooperation, why not consider a similar trajectory for nuclear rivals Pakistan and India?”

It is of course too soon to talk about such potential cooperation as a done deal, but Mohammad Eslami’ statement is remarkable itself – especially considering that in 2018  Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was claiming that if Iran acquired the nuclear bomb, Saudi Arabia would “have to get one” as well – a threat repeated as early as September 2023. To fully grasp it, some context is needed.

The Islamic Republic of Iran and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have indeed been pursuing a proxy conflict for a long time, as seen in Yemen, where the Kingdom has been fighting the Houthi rebels. With the 2020 Abraham Accords, talks about Saudi Arabia becoming the next Middle Eastern nation to normalize relations with Israel intensified. The ongoing Gaza war of course changed all of that – it has not only damaged the Jewish state’s complex relations with Turkey, but also with the Saudis. Washington still hopes of course to push the so-called Saudi-Israeli “mega-deal” at all costs. The Saudi-Iranian factor (tense in itself) complicates all of that.

In October 2021, some weeks after a fourth round of Saudi-Iranian table talks, in spite of tensions, I wrote on how Saudi Arabia-Iran rapprochement could change the very face of the Middle East. Such talks are still ongoing and tensions remain. Now, as I mentioned, a possible nuclear deal looms on the horizon. Neither the Saudi nor the Iranian nuclear programs involve atomic weapons, but, according to Tristan Volpe (a fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace), “at the moment, Iran is the only major US adversary accumulating nuclear latency in lieu of the bomb.”

Also in 2021, in December, I commented on progress made by the underreported Saudi nuclear program and the history of Saudi-Chinese cooperation on nuclear energy, which has been a matter of concern for both Israel and the US. Beijing has in fact helped to build a Saudi facility for the extraction of uranium yellowcake out of uranium ore – an important intermediate step. In March 2023, after 6 years, the two emerging powers did agree to finally resume their diplomatic relations in a China-brokered deal.

In the same aforementioned 2021 piece, I argued that, in this context of Sino-Saudi cooperation, the Pakistan authorities in Islamabad could in fact operate as a kind of bridge, as there were talks about the emergence of a new Chinese-Saudi-Pakistan partnership focused on the port of Gwadar (in Pakistan, on the shores of the Arabian Sea), whose control Islamabad transferred to a Chinese state-owned company in 2013.

Gwadar is still the end point for one of Beijing’s economic corridors comprising the Chinese One Belt One Road Initiative, and is also part of the China–Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), central for Sino-Pakistan relations. I further argued that in light of that partnership, Beijing itself in turn could mediate between the Saudi authorities in Riyadh and the Iranian ones in Tehran with regards to their reconciliation efforts. Then relatively isolated Saudi Arabia was in need of new allies, with soured relations with its traditional American ally.

The next year, in late 2022, OPEC’s largely Saudi-driven decision to cut oil output really marked the end of the Washington-Riyadh relations (at least the way the world knew them thus far), in the context of a general  de-dollarization trend. The petrodollar has long been a “pillar of the Western financial system”, in Bhadrakumar’ words (former Indian diplomat). To Bhadrakumar, an understanding between Moscow and Riyadh-led OPEC “holds the potential to completely transform the geopolitical alignments in the Middle East.” This may give anyone a hint about how important Saudi Arabia is in the greater scheme of things pertaining to the emerging polycentric world order.

Daniel Byman, Doreen Horschig, and Elizabeth Kos, all three of whom are researchers at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argue that Saudi Arabia’s civil nuclear program could evolve into the development of nuclear weapons, in a light of the so-called “stability-instability paradox”, pertaining to Saudi-Iranian relations. The three scholars also worry about Washington “losing” Saudi support for normalization with Israel and “ceding” influence to rivals “such as China”.

To sum it up, all the developments pertaining to Saudi-Chinese collaboration, de-dollarization, BRICS expansion, OPEC, the petrodollar, and, on top all that, a potential Saudi-Iranian nuclear agreement have the potential to change the face of not just the Middle East but also the world as we know it.

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jens holm

as long as iran dont change their dirty face and more, their is no change.

saudis are not nice but a bit nicer.

and china just need oil and gas no matter that.

fine meeting of the usual kind. brics are in bigtrouble.

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Zalim singh

you don’t know shit.

Wallter

the disunited states of avarice will have a fit, in fact the mother of all fits, if saudi and iran hit it off more than recently. the crooks in the white house has worked for a nuclear cooperation with the squatters in palestine and here is china’s meddling in west asia andxseems close to closing a deal. saudi won’t regret for a second if they continue to deal with iran!!

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