But Saudi officials also recognised how security threats, especially from Iran, endangered Prince Mohammed’s big plans.
This point was driven home with attacks in 2019, claimed by the Iran-backed Huthis, on Saudi oil facilities that temporarily halved crude output.
Riyadh and Washington charged that Tehran was behind the operation, which the Iranians denied.
The incident was a game-changer, spurring Saudi Arabia to pursue a more conciliatory path, analysts and diplomats say.
Saudi officials were deeply disappointed by the tepid response of then-US president Donald Trump’s administration, which they believed undermined the oil-for-security trade-off that has underpinned the two countries’ partnership for decades.
“The Saudis were shocked that the Americans did nothing to protect them,” said an Arab diplomat based in Riyadh.
“Saudi officials told us, ‘We need to focus on the megaprojects,'” the diplomat added, citing a futuristic megacity known as NEOM and a budding arts hub in the northern city of AlUla.
“If one missile hits NEOM or AlUla, there will be no investment or tourism. The vision will collapse.”
– ‘Lowering the temperature’ –
In making up with Iran, Prince Mohammed has not gone it alone.
Neighbouring Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates restored full diplomatic ties with the Islamic republic last year.
But the Saudi-Iranian deal is seen as more significant because the two Middle East heavyweights have often found themselves on opposite sides of conflicts — not just in Yemen but also in places including Lebanon and Iraq.
“The kingdom is pursuing a calibrated geopolitic reset that attempts to holistically improve the broader regional security environment,” said Ayham Kamel of Eurasia Group.
Anna Jacobs of the International Crisis Group added: “Lowering the temperature with Iran is a smart way to lower tensions across the region and mitigate some of the proxy battles surrounding Saudi Arabia.”
The next step for implementing the deal is a meeting between the two countries’ foreign ministers, though it has not yet been scheduled.
Earlier this week, an Iranian official said President Ebrahim Raisi had favourably received an invitation to visit Saudi Arabia from King Salman, Prince Mohammed’s father, though Riyadh has yet to confirm.
These expected encounters will be closely watched as worries persist that the rapprochement remains fragile.
“Mistrust is deep between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” Jacobs said, “and both sides will need to see positive signals from the other very soon to proceed with the deal.”
Source- Hindustan Times.