(CNSNews.com) – The Biden administration has cautiously welcomed a China-mediated agreement to restore ties between Iran and Saudi Arabia, but House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said Sunday it was a “very troubling” development that does not reflect well on the administration’s approach to the region.
“I think that, of course, is a reflection on the Biden administration.” Turner told ABC News’ “This Week,” in reference to the deal announced in Beijing on Friday on an accord between the two bitter Mideast rivals.
Turner contrasted the “very harsh words” President Biden had for the Saudis when taking office with the help that the U.S. had been giving the kingdom to strengthen its defenses in the face of drone and missile attacks by the Iranian regime’s proxy militia in Yemen, the Houthis.
“Instead of this administration stepping forward and being a partner to Saudi Arabia, our ally, and working with them to defend themselves against attacks from Iran, they subjected Saudi Arabia to a significant amount of criticism and were slow to react and respond to the military needs of Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“So it’s not unexpected that they might look elsewhere for support,” Turner added. “It certainly is very unexpected and certainly very troubling and disappointing that they would turn to Iran.”
Under the deal announced in Beijing, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to end a diplomatic freeze dating back to 2016 and reopen their embassies within two months, and committed to respect each other’s sovereignty and not to interfere in each other’s internal affairs.
“We welcome any efforts to help end the war in Yemen and de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Friday, adding that the key pillars of Biden’s policy for the region were “de-escalation and diplomacy, together with deterrence.”
“To the degree that it could deescalate tensions, all that’s to the good side of the ledger,” National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby told reporters the same day.
Yet while on the surface a “win-win” arrangement, the surprise agreement between Shi’ite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia is viewed by some regional experts as having potentially far-reaching implications, including not necessarily positive ones for the United States – or Israel, Iran’s foremost foe.
“No, we don’t want Iran to have good relations with anyone as long as the regime advances its nuclear program, slaughters its citizens, plots to assassinate a dozen American officials and dissidents, and remains the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism,” Gabriel Noronha, a State Department advisor on Iran during the Trump administration, wrote in a Washington Examiner op-ed.
“We want to isolate Iran and turn it into a global pariah. In case the White House forgot, we have congressionally mandated sanctions on Iran to isolate the regime’s economy.”
‘The post-U.S. era in the Persian Gulf region has just started’
From the Iranian regime and state media perspective, the deal means a weakening of U.S. efforts to isolate Tehran and a further shift in a global realignment as a growing group of influential nations coalesces around China and Russia to counter Western “hegemony.”
Maj. Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi, a top military advisor to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Sunday the agreement marked “a tectonic shift in the political arena and an end to the American hegemony in the region.”
“The post-U.S. era in the Persian Gulf region has just started,” he said. “The era of decline of the power of the US and Zionists has begun.”
Safavi predicted that the agreement would help usher Saudi Arabia’s entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), a 20-year-old Eurasian bloc dominated by China and Russia and long seen as a rising counterweight to NATO.
Iran last year became the newest member of the SCO, and Saudi Arabia, like several other Gulf states, is an SCO “dialogue partner.”
“The [SCO] alliance can play the role of a barrier against the U.S.-led NATO and the West’s military power in the future,” Safavi said.
The regime-supported Iranian daily Jomhouri-e-Eslami said the agreement would prevent “the increasing influence of the Zionists in the region.”
“The United States and the Zionist regime can be considered the two biggest losers of the agreement,” said Javan, a paper affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
It argued that Saudi Arabia had reached the conclusion that solving its problems with Iran and drawing closer to “Iran-China-Russia axis in the new world order” would better serve its security and interests.
The Tehran Times called the agreement a setback to U.S. efforts to isolate Iran, and a blow to attempts to draw Saudi Arabia into the circle of Arab states that have signed normalization deals with Israel.
The Biden administration’s frosty relations with the Saudis alluded to by Turner arose from its response to the 2018 murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. The killing in Istanbul took place during a botched abduction operation which the U.S. intelligence community’s determined was approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Biden vowed while running for the White House that he would treat the Saudi regime as pariahs, but the energy crisis arising as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine prompted him to visit the kingdom last summer.
Biden was criticized at home after being filmed greeting bin Salman with a fist bump, but he told reporters that he had raised Khashoggi’s murder at the top of his meeting with the crown prince, “making it clear what I thought of it.”
Biden returned from the region amid optimism that an oil output increase was coming, but instead the Saudi-led OPEC cartel and its partners decided to cut oil production. The move added to bilateral tensions, and the White House signaled its intention to “recalibrate” the decades-old relationship.
As Saudis Bolster Ties With China, WH Says ‘Our Partners’ Make Their Own Relationship Decisions (Dec. 7, 2022)