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11 Mar 2023
Ian Hanchett

NextImg:White House: China-Brokered Iran-Saudi Deal 'Is Welcome'

On Friday’s broadcast of NBC’s “MTP Now,” White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby reacted to the restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran brokered by China by stating that “Anything that can bring the tensions down in the region is welcome,” and if the deal works, which they hope it does, “we welcome that. We think that’s good for the region.” And that President Joe Biden “is very comfortable with our leadership” in the Middle East.

Kirby said, “Anything that can bring the tensions down in the region is welcome, Chuck. And if this can help us end that war in Yemen, if it can help the Saudi people feel more comfortable that they’re not going to be attacked from the Houthi rebels that are supported by Iran, then we welcome that. We think that’s good for the region. I think it’s important for people to remember that one of the reasons that Iran was willing to sit down at the table was, in fact, the pressure they were feeling internally from their own people and externally from the rest of the world by the way they were supporting Russia in Ukraine.”

He added, “We certainly were mindful of these talks between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi was keeping us fully informed of their diplomatic conversations, as we keep them informed. So, no surprises there. And again, that’s a — this arrangement, which basically takes these two countries, Chuck, back to where they were seven years ago, the opening of embassies and diplomatic relations. It really goes back to about 2016. And I think it’s also important to remember that it remains to be seen how sustainable this is going to be. We’ve seen Iran enter into agreements before, make commitments that they actually don’t follow through on. We actually hope they do. We hope this does work to de-escalate tensions.”

Host Chuck Todd then asked, “I’m just curious, though, does it — is it at all concerning that China’s the one playing global world leader here and not us in the Middle East? I mean, it’s a bit jarring.”

Kirby responded, “Look, no sour grapes here. Again, if this thing has the effect that we want it to have, that’s a good thing. And the President is very comfortable with our leadership in the Middle East region, the partnerships that we have there, the relationships, and all the efforts that we are doing to hold Iran accountable, to keep a viable, credible military force in that region, and to protect our national security interests. We’re very comfortable with the status of our leadership in that part of the world.”

Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett

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