White House Denies US Stepping Back From Middle East After Iran–Saudi Deal Brokered by China

The White House is pushing back against the idea that the United States is stepping away from the Middle East following the announcement that Iran and Saudi Arabia have agreed to reestablish relations, in a deal brokered by the Chinese regime.

“I would stridently push back on this idea that we’re stepping back in the Middle East—far from it,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on March 10. “It really does remain to be seen whether the Iranians are going to honor their side of the deal. This is not a regime that typically honors its word.”

He said that while the United States was kept informed about talks between Saudi Arabia and other parties, U.S. officials weren’t directly involved.

Tehran and Riyadh announced their agreement on March 10 following four days of previously unreported negotiations between top security officials from the two Middle Eastern rivals in Beijing. The two nations agreed to resume diplomatic relations and reopen embassies within two months, according to a statement issued by Iran, Saudi Arabia, and China.

“The agreement includes their affirmation of the respect for the sovereignty of states and the non-interference in internal affairs,” the statement said.

China’s top diplomat Wang Yi hailed the agreement as a “victory for dialogue,” according to a Chinese foreign ministry readout.

When asked about China’s role in brokering the agreement, Kirby said, “This is not about China.”

“We support any effort to deescalate tensions there in the region,” he continued.

Kirby dismissed concerns about China’s growing influence in the Middle East.

“As for Chinese influence [in the Middle East], or in Africa or Latin America, it’s not like we have blinders on,” he said. “We’ll certainly continue to watch China as they try to gain influence and foothold elsewhere around the world in their own selfish interest.”

In the recently announced agreement, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to reactivate a 2001 security cooperation agreement, as well as an earlier agreement on trade, economics, and investment.

Both countries expressed gratitude to China, Iraq, and Oman for holding previous talks in 2021 and 2022.

Iran has been in the headlines in recent weeks since it was discovered the Middle East nation docked warships in Rio de Janeiro. The event, which took place between Feb. 26 and March 4, sparked concern among democratic nations in the region.

The presence of the warships, political and security analysts say, is because of a new wave of leftist politicians that has swept across Latin America in recent years, including Brazil’s new president.

According to experts, Iran appears to be delivering on its promise to moor warships in the Panama Canal by the end of 2023.

Brazil’s former minister of foreign affairs, Ernesto Araujo, previously told The Epoch Times, “The big picture here doesn’t look good.”

Reuters contributed to this report.

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