Iran Hopes for Better Saudi Ties After ‘Change of Tone’

Saudis concern secret talks in Baghdad

On April 9 it was reported that Iraq had put together secret talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad. Officials are now confirming as much, and Iranian and Saudi officials are both talking of a new era of cooperation and improved ties.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman confirmed this week that he’s hoping for a “good and special relationship,” and Iranian Foreign Ministry officials say they are welcoming the “change of tone” and the opportunity for peace and stability.

This is a big change, as  Iran and Saudi Arabia have been seen as the heads of Shi’ite and Sunni Islam, respectively, and fighting a de facto proxy war for decades. The Saudis have been vilifying Iran, and vice versa. Even the idea of secret talks didn’t seem possible in recent years.

The Saudis may have realized that the situation isn’t so good for going all-in anti-Iran just now, and see a rapprochement as a possibility worth exploring. With the near-term Saudi interest in working something out in Yemen, having a working relationship in Iran would certainly be a good start.

A rapprochement with Iran could be complicating in some ways too, however. Saudi officials have recently made inroads on new ties with Israel, and since Israel’s priority is anti-Iran all day, every day, it’s unlikely they’ll welcome any shift in ties.

Iraq stands to gain the most from this, as they border both nations and would just as soon not get drawn into any conflicts between them.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.