Saudi Arabia restored diplomatic ties with Iran severed in 1987 – a precursor to détente that took effect in 1994 during the presidency of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani. At Riyadh’s behest, Tehran became the venue for the triennial Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in 1997. It was chaired by moderate President Muhammad Khatami during whose administration there was a thaw between Tehran and Washington. This convinced Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto Saudi ruler, that Iran’s leaders had accepted his advice to mend fences with America which, in his view, would pave the way for a lasting Riyadh-Tehran amity. Invited by King Fahd, Khatami met him in Jeddah. In February 1998, Rafsanjani, leading a large delegation, conducted amicable meetings in the Kingdom’s leading cities. The fond hope of Iran’s policy-makers was to cap economic, cultural and diplomatic ties with Riyadh with a bilateral security pact. They visualized it as an overarching agreement. The Saudis, on the other hand, had a limited version in mind. Therefore, the Saudi-Iranian security pact signed in April 2001 covered only countering organized crime, terrorism and drug trafficking. Meanwhile, encouraged by Abdullah, the other Gulf Arab monarchies warmed their relations with Tehran.
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