Originally published in Tehran Times
Richard W. Murphy, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Syria and Saudi Arabia, says “improvement in Saudi-Iranian relations would be a major step towards increasing regional stability.”
“The long history of suspicion and mistrust means any improvement will be slow and will require top level support on both sides,” Murphy tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
Murphy, who retired in 1989 after serving 34 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, also says U.S. pivot to Asia “does not mean to abandon” the Middle East.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: What will be the effect of the nuclear agreement between Tehran and major powers on Iran’s regional status?
A: It will provide funds to invigorate the Iranian economy and expand its regional trading relations.
Q: Is there possibility of new alignments, including one between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, now that Iran and great powers have struck a nuclear deal?
A: Improvement in Saudi-Iranian relations would be a major step towards increasing regional stability. The long history of suspicion and mistrust means any improvement will be slow and will require top level support on both sides.
Q: Will the U.S. pivot to Asia affect Washington’s ties with its regional allies, especially those in the Persian Gulf region?
A: To pivot does not mean to abandon and the U.S. will continue to have major interests to pursue in the Middle East. I see no replacement for the U.S. role in helping preserve freedom of navigation in international waters.
Q: Can the Iran nuclear deal help resolve regional crises such as those in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon?
A: This remains to be seen. Personally I am optimistic that the nuclear agreement will open new avenues for Iranian-p5plus1 cooperation.