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With Trump ‘Gone,’ Iran’s Zarif Opens Twitter Diplomacy In Arabic

Following the victory of the Democratic Party challenger Joe Biden in the United States presidential election, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, has made an Arabic-language Twitter overture to Iran’s Arab neighbors, led by Saudi Arabia, which under crown prince Mohammed bin Salam allied closely with US president Donald Trump.

“Trump will be gone, and we and our neighbors will remain,” Zarif tweeted in Arabic on Sunday. “Betting on outsiders will not bring security [to the region] and is going to be disappointing. We extend our hand to our neighbors to cooperate in achieving the common interests of our peoples and countries. We urge everyone to [establish] dialogue as the only way to end differences and tensions.” Hours later Zarif tweeted a similar text in English.

Two Persian Gulf Arab states – the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – agreed normalization agreements with Israel in August and September, and there has been a general improvement in relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, including intelligence cooperation, since the Obama administration and world powers concluded the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran. The realignment gathered pace after Trump became US president in 2017 and withdrew from the deal.

Biden has vowed to return to the agreement, but Israeli and Saudi opposition is expected to continue, possibly in arguing that the deal should be recalibrated.

Zarif may be seeking to play down concerns held by Iran’s Persian Gulf Arab neighbors over Tehran’s missile program and relationship with allies like Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Houthis in Yemen.

Zarif’s immediate focus, however, is elsewhere. On Monday the foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh announced that the minister would leave for Islamabad on Tuesday for a two-day official visit. Zarif is scheduled to meet with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, his foreign minister and the commander-in-chief of the Pakistani army.  

In an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel on October 30, Khan said since “a direct war between Iran and Saudi Arabia would be disastrous and affect the entire world,” he had offered to mediate between the two.

In October 2019, Khan visited Tehran and Riyadh, meeting both the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Iranian officials including President Hassan Rouhani, who also met Khan, said Tehran was ready for negotiations: “We openly welcome any goodwill gesture by Pakistan for providing more peace and stability for the whole region and we are ready to assist Pakistan in providing full peace and stability for the whole region.”

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