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Why is Saudi Arabia dragging feet on resuming talks with Iran?

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An Iranian Middle East expert examines the reasons of why Saudi Arabia is reportedly dragging its feet on holding a new round of negotiations with Iran aimed at fixing troubled ties and has instead chosen to up the ante in the kingdom’s brutal war on Yemen.

“While the Iranian side is said to have responded positively to a request by Baghdad (the mediator) for the start of a fifth round of talks, informed sources said Saudi Arabia has not yet issued a transparent response,” wrote Saber Golanbari for Iranian Diplomacy.

The commentator enumerated a series of factors that may have been behind the delay, including the turbulent elections in Iraq as well as Riyadh’s diplomatic dispute with Lebanon.

On the other hand, he wrote, the previous four rounds have had no meaningful results except for softer political rhetoric among Iranian and Saudi officials.

“In the first place, the talks started while Saudi Arabia was under pressure by the US to end the war on Yemen, something that led to a decrease in Riyadh-led raids on the war-torn country.”

“Simultaneously, Yemen’s Houthi Ansaralluh in Yemen stepped up its liberation operation in the key province of Ma’rib besides its counter-attacks on sensitive targets on Saudi soil.”

“At the onset of negotiations with Iran, Saudi Arabia’s main demand was an end to Yemen’s retaliatory operations. Tehran, however, viewed the call as a sign of weakness and desperation on Riyadh’s part and urged the Saudi side to hold direct talks to Sana’a.”

“Following the fourth round, Saudi Arabia appears to have changed its approach to Yemen by heavily intensifying its bombardment campaign against the country.”

With the Yemen developments taken into account, the Saudi government appears to be seeking a type of “leverage” or “winning card” before returning to talks with Iran, according to Golanbari.

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