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Camelia Entekhabi-Fard Headshot

Saudi Arabia Accepts Iran's Friend Request

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When I receive friend requests on my personal social media pages, before responding I take the time to check if the person is Iranian or not. If she or he is of Arab origin and we have at least one friend in common, I will usually accept the request. However, if the request comes from an unknown Iranian, to be frank, I would not accept it.

I am of Iranian origin, but because I have been mistreated by trusting unknown people from my country, I decided to stay away from anonymous Iranian unless I know who exactly they are.

Since my departure from Iran in 2000, I have spent a great deal of time in the Arab world.

Powerful Arab countries such as Saudi Arabia seem to have difficulties in understanding the new Iranian regime's mentality since Iran's foreign policy is always a subject to changes dependent on the situations since the revolution of 1979.

The animosity between Iran and the U.S., which the Persian Gulf countries have gotten used to over the years, is not new to them. However, with each renewed round of tension, the Arab neighbors shiver too. When Iran and the U.S. threaten each other with military confrontation, and when Iran threatened to close off access to the Strait of Hormuz, neighboring countries will be jeopardized.

All this makes Iran's relations with its Arab neighbors difficult and challenging.

When I speak to Arab politicians and elite policy makers and ask them why they have not made major headway in forging relations with Iran since Hassan Rowhani's election last year, they tell me that there has not been any significant proof to show changes are being made.

Tehran has armed, trained and backed up some of the region's most notorious militia over the years and now it's difficult for regional countries to believe that all of a sudden Iran has changed its foreign policy. Iran and the West's, or perhaps it is better to say Iran and the United States', interim agreement regarding Tehran's controversial nuclear program eased the tension in the region for sure, however, more of the country's regional foreign policies need to be seen before a final judgment can be made.

In light of November's interim agreement, it seems as though Tehran boosted its efforts to improve its relations with Arab neighbors, specifically Saudi Arabia.

It is no secret that Tehran-Riyadh relations have soured due to regional power plays. Also, a
bizarre plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C. in 2011 by a hired car-salesman from Texas, who was convicted in a New York court last year, remains a bone of contention. Iran denies playing any part in the plots.

Going back to my social media requests, just as I need to see the faces of Iranian friends to ascertain that they are known to me, Iran's new pick for the role of ambassador to Saudi Arabia is a friendly face. This is a positive sign. Hussein Sadeghi served as Iran's ambassador in Riyadh when Mohammad Khatami was the president and the two countries shared positive relations during that period.

Ambassador Sadeghi was replaced when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad become president and Iran's foreign policy changed drastically. Sending the same man back to Riyadh can be interpreted as Tehran's interest in improving relations and restoring them. Saudi Arabia welcomed Iran's choices and seemed to approve of Sadeghi's appointment, who has been said to be close to former President Hashemi Rafsanjani and President Rowhani and is apparently trusted by Saudi politicians too, according to my contacts. Simply put, Saudi Arabia accepted this friendship request by Iran and the next chapter is going to open up between the two countries if Iran successfully reaches the interim nuclear deal with the West by the end of this year and cooperates with Saudi Arabia in regional matters.

This article first published at Al-Arabiya Net.