Saudi-Iran talks said to have stalled over protests in Iran

BAGHDAD: Baghdad-brokered diplomatic talks between regional rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia have stalled, largely due to Tehran’s claims Sunni kingdom played a role in alleged foreign incitement to the ongoing mass anti-government protests in Iran, multiple Iraqi officials said.
The talks have been hailed as a breakthrough that will ease regional tensions. Iraq has a new prime minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said last month after taking office that Iraq had been asked to continue to facilitate dialogue.
However, the sixth round of talks scheduled to be chaired by Baghdad was not scheduled because Tehran refused to meet with Saudi officials as protests in Iran entered their fourth month, according to Iraqi officials.
“The Iran-Saudi negotiations have stalled and this will have a negative impact on the region,” said Amer al-Fayez, an Iraqi lawmaker and member of the parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee. .
During his first official visit to Tehran in November, al-Sudani asked about the resumption of talks and mentioned that he would soon visit the Saudi capital, Riyadh.
But the Iranians told him they would not meet their Saudi counterparts and accused the kingdom of supporting nationwide protests in Iran through Saudi-funded media channels, according to reports. an official who is a member of Iraq’s ruling Coordination Framework coalition, a coalition of mostly nations. Iran-backed group.
The details were confirmed by five Iraqi officials, including government officials, Iran-backed militia groups and figures from the Shiite Muslim political party. All spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the topic with the media.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations confirmed the talks had paused but offered no explanation. “Negotiations between Iran and Saudi Arabia have come to a halt in light of recent developments in Iran, for several reasons. It may be worth asking Saudi Arabia about them,” the mission said in a statement.
Kingdom did not respond to a request for comment.
Iran’s apparent refusal to continue negotiations is a setback for al-Sudani, who had hoped an ongoing Saudi-Iranian dialogue would allow Iraq to cement its role as a regional mediator. area. The halt to the talks could also have regional consequences, with the two nations aiding opposing forces in a number of conflicts across the Middle East, including in Syria and Yemen, where Iran supports the Houthi rebels fighting against the kingdom.
Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of sponsoring London-based Iran International, a news channel that has extensively covered the protests that broke out in Iran in mid-September. The channel is owned by Volant Media UK, includes Saudi shareholders with ties to the Saudi royal family.
According to an Iraqi Foreign Ministry official, Tehran was also upset by a joint statement issued after the Arab-Chinese summit in Riyadh last week. In a statement, Saudi Arabia and China said they had agreed to “strengthen joint cooperation to ensure the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program”, and called on Iran to respect “the principles of good neighborliness”. good and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries”.
China is Iran’s longtime economic partner, with bilateral relations centered around Beijing’s energy needs but also including arms sales. The deepening ties between the countries are also seen as a strategic counterweight in the region to the United States and its allies. Iraqi officials said Tehran was concerned that improved economic ties between Beijing and Riyadh could shed light on the status quo.
Saudi Arabia, with its Sunni majority, and Iran, a majority Shiite, have been at odds since Iran’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, but relations worsened following the execution of a Shiite cleric 2016 Nimr al-Nimr of Riyadh. The incident sparked protests in Saudi Arabia and Iran, where protesters burned the Saudi Embassy in Tehran. Diplomatic relations then deteriorated.
Direct negotiations were launched in April 2021, mediated by Iraq, aimed at improving relations. The mere existence of a dialogue has been deemed important, even if the only notable outcome so far has been Iran reopening the country’s representative office to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in the city. Jeddah Street of Saudi Arabia.
Iran has been mired in anti-government protests since September 16, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody, following her arrest for allegedly violating strict regulations. about the Muslim dress of the country. From protests calling for greater freedoms for women, the protests have become one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s theocracy since the tumultuous years following the Islamic Revolution.
According to the Iranian human rights watchdog HRANA, at least 495 people have been killed since the protests began, with reported incidents of Iranian security forces using live ammunition, small pellets and high-caliber bullets. su to disperse the crowd. More than 18,000 people have been detained across dozens of cities.
Iran claims the protests were orchestrated by foreign agents, including the US and its allies in the region. At the start of the protests, Tehran blamed Kurdish opposition groups in exile in Iraq for fueling the protests and shipping weapons into Iran without providing evidence to support the claims.
Iran launched a series of missile attacks into northern Iraq targeting party bases, killing at least a dozen people.
Kurdish opposition groups have denied Tehran’s accusations that they smuggle weapons into Iran and say their involvement is limited to solidarity with the protesters, especially in the said areas. Iranian Kurdish language and raising awareness globally.
Iran has continued to pressure Iraq to enforce stricter border controls.
Officials said the topic was brought up again during al-Sudani’s visit to Tehran. Iraq has deployed specialized border guards to the area near the border with Iran. The forces were formed mainly from Kurdish soldiers to avoid tensions with the government of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq.
“Iran is currently facing a real crisis,” said Ihsan al-Shammari, an Iraqi political analyst.
Iran is trying to make a scapegoat for other countries and groups, he said, “to convince the Iranian people that the crisis is the result of foreign interference.”


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