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If the Leaders of the Two Koreas Can Meet, Why Can’t Those of Saudi Arabia and Iran?


If the Leaders of the Two Koreas Can Meet, Why Can’t Those of Saudi Arabia and Iran?

Juan Cole

The remarkable face to face meeting of the leaders of North and South Korea is being watched with hope by many observers, given the long decades of enmity between the two and the recent nuclear sabre-rattling of President Trump.

At least in my circles, I see virtually no one condemning the meeting, though many are skeptical that it will lead to any practical result.


How does a teacher of Middle East history not know that “bin Salman” is not a surname, that Arabs don’t use surnames as we do, only patronymics?

Aside from that irritation, Cole seems to be only using the meeting of the Koreas as clickbait to give us little information about the relationships between the Saudis and Iranians. They are not a single people, as the Koreans are, divided by the decision of “superpowers” as spoils of war. Their differences are mostly economic, supported by sectarianism.

Singularly unhelpful.


Why can’t the Israelis and Palestinians talk?


Another very different pairing.


Actually, Dr Cole makes the point that formerly, Iran and KSA could sit down for talks.

Also, that former Saudi allies are now under Iran’s influence.

In a future installment, I think he’ll speak to the centuries-old Sunni vs. Shi’ia schism and the Sh’ia crescent (Lebanon/Syria/Iraq/Iran). I’d guess that he’ll speak to israel’s belief that it can defeat the Shiite crescent in a war with US help, a conceit that’s growing more dubious by the day, unless nuclear devastation can be called a victory. And it wouldn’t surprise me if he talked about the fact that US policy in the region has long been directed towards fomenting instability while keeping the oil flowing.

But who knows.


The two Muslim leaders can’t meet, because they are of two different sects of Islam which have hated each other for 1400 years!


I read that Iran says allow them the same number of nukes that Israel has. I agree with that.


All that would have to happen is for Iran to tell the world that if the US attacks them they will attack Saudi Arabia. Then the Saudis and Iranians would sign a peace pact to thwart the militaristic ambitions of the US. Too bad Iran got suckered by the US and gave up their nuclear weapons program. North Korea not so dumb.


The difference is that Saudi Arabia has aggressive intentions with regard to its neighbors. North and South Korea are in the way of nuclear threats; the Sauds stand to further their oil deals.


Yes. Sunnis and Shiites, that is the Middle East schism so easily exploited. It needs to mend itself.


Emmanuel Macron would be the prime candidate to facilitate a meeting so outlined.

No one in this country wants for anything but future weapon sales.


(emphasis added)

Not that I have so much hope while the US takes sides and promotes arms sales to both the Saudis and the Israelis (who of course aren’t part of it), but indeed that schism can be mended only by those who cherish it.