Updates from the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Turkey

Written by Bushra Bani-Salman

March 12, 2023

Saudi Arabia and Iran Restore Ties

In Beijing, with China as the mediator, Iran and Saudi Arabia have pledged diplomatic talks in pursuit of restoring ties. This includes reopening their embassies after years of halted diplomacy. The two countries have had a seven-year rift with rising tensions. Saudi leaders are Sunni Muslim, while Iran’s leaders are Shi’a Muslims. The two sects have had great complications in the past, mainly with Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen to suppress the Shi’ite Houthis while Iran has supported the Houthis. 

This breaking news has raised concerns for many reasons regionally with Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, and Yemen. Saudi Arabia and Iran have had opposing views within the region for decades and both struggle for power in regional politics. The US government has stated that they approve of any hopes of de-escalation and diplomacy in the region. Experts have mentioned that this stop in relationship-building may be due to Iran running out of options as it is under severe pressure from internal and external factors.

Turkey’s Presidential Elections

Presidential elections in Turkey are set to take place March 14th. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been president of Turkey since 2014 and this upcoming election may be the end of his leadership. Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the Republican People’s Party has been chosen as Erdoğan’s opposition. 

Kılıçdaroğlu is an economist and social-democratic politician. He comes from a Turkish region with a large Kurdish and Alevi minority population and is Alevi himself. His campaign has focused on human rights and democracy, while pointing at the recent earthquakes as a fault of Erdoğan’s governing. He hopes to rally Kurds in the region to support his bid, but this can also increase political tensions from right-wing nationalist Turks that support Erdoğan. 

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