Tehran, Iran – The rapprochement between Iran and Saudi Arabia has led to profound changes beyond the borders of both regional powers.
Tehran has normalized relations with several other countries and efforts are underway to make changes to help stabilize the region and reduce tensions.
So who recently restored formal ties with Iran, what’s the latest between Tehran and Riyadh, and who else could follow suit in improving relations?
Why didn’t some countries talk to Iran?
When Iran and Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties, the fallout spread beyond them, with several Arab countries also cutting ties with Tehran, along with some African states betting on the kingdom.
Djibouti, Sudan and the Maldives were among the countries that distanced themselves from Iran in support of Riyadh.
The detente between Tehran and Riyadh led to increased contact between Iran and its Arab neighbors, with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian meeting with Jasem Mohamed Albudaiwi, the Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
The detente also sparked talks between Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement on one side and Saudi Arabia and the internationally recognized Yemeni government on the other, helping Syria to be readmitted to the Arab League.
Matters were more complicated for Egypt, which has had a rocky relationship with Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution that deposed the last shah.
Then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat granted asylum to Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi when he fled Iran, and he remained in Cairo until his death in 1980. Egypt’s recognition of Israel was another major factor contributing to the darkening of relations.
Morocco, for its part, said in 2018 that it would sever diplomatic ties with Tehran over its alleged support for the Western Sahara independence movement known as the Polisario Front.
The United States has not had formal relations with Iran since the 1980 hostage crisis, and Canada cut ties in 2012 after accusing the Iranian state of being “the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”
So who revived ties with Iran?
The sidelines of the UNGA in New York provided an opportunity for Iranian officials to sit down with their counterparts from the region and beyond.
Tehran’s increasing efforts to restore dialogue with a range of players appeared to pay off, leading to the restoration of relations with at least two countries.
Prime Minister Amir-Abdollahian met with Djibouti’s top diplomat, Mahamoud Ali Youssouf, on Thursday and they announced they would restore relations.
A day later, Amir-Abdollahian met with Ahmed Khaleel, the Maldivian Foreign Minister, and the two announced that formal diplomatic relations would resume.
Both agreements come shortly after Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to restore formal diplomatic ties in a landmark deal brokered by China in March.
Diplomatic ties were severed in 2016 after Saudi diplomatic missions in Iran were stormed by protesters in response to the Sunni-majority kingdom’s execution of a prominent Shiite religious leader.
How is the agreement between Tehran and Riyadh going?
Iran and Saudi Arabia, who resumed direct Iraqi talks for the first time in 2021, have both praised how their rapprochement is going.
The regional heavyweights exchanged ambassadors earlier this month and have been in increasingly regular contact since the agreement.
Iran says President Ebrahim Raisi has accepted an invitation from Saudi leaders to visit Riyadh, a major trip expected in the near future.
Tehran, which earlier this week congratulated the monarchy on the occasion of its national holiday, also extended an invitation to visit Saudi leaders.
The foreign ministers of the two countries appeared in good spirits when they met on the sidelines of the 78th UNGA meeting this week and discussed improving bilateral ties, including on air and maritime transport, and facilitating more sporting events after Tehran hosted Cristiano Ronaldo and other football stars.
Amir-Abdollahian told Saudi Chief Diplomat Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud that Iran is ready to draft and sign a comprehensive bilateral cooperation agreement, as discussed during the former’s meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in August.
Who else is talking to Iran now?
After renewed ties with Saudi Arabia, a successful rapprochement between Iran and Egypt would likely prove to be the biggest deal.
For about two years, Tehran and Cairo have spoken — with far less fanfare than in the talks with Riyadh — with mediation from Iraq and Oman as the two seriously assessed renewed ties in a changed landscape under Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.
Recently, Iran’s Raisi told a press conference in New York that the latest meeting between the countries’ foreign ministers could lead to the beginning of a new chapter in bilateral relations and that Tehran “sees no obstacle in establishing relations with Egypt”.
Jordan and Iran have also spoken, but details are scarce and the talks do not appear to have reached an advanced political stage as Amman, one of the largest recipients of US foreign aid, may fail to reach an agreement with Tehran over Israel. and Syria.
Iran also wants to broaden its horizons with Sudan and Morocco, with Amir-Abdollahian expressing hope that formal ties can be restored.