What drives the Saudi-Iran detente

One of the world’s dangerous powder kegs was partly defused last week. After seven years of estrangement and conflict in the Middle East, Iran and Saudi Arabia renewed official ties March 10. Each had different strategic reasons for the diplomatic detente in a very volatile region. Yet their leaders share one important necessity on the home front: They are each trying to meet the aspirations of a demographic bulge of people under 30 who have a recent history of protests for freedom on the streets or on social media.

As Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan al-Saud tweeted after the mutual recognition, both countries must now work together to “build a model of prosperity and stability.”

Of the two, Saudi Arabia remains far ahead in creating opportunities for youth. That explains why Iran was more eager to renew ties, relying on three countries – Iraq, Oman, and lately China – to mediate the agreement. Last year, young Iranians erupted in protest after the death of a young woman following her arrest for improper head covering. The revolt was widespread and directed at ending clerical rule.

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