China and Pakistan try to prevent Saudi-Iranian war

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will arrive in Tehran on January 19th as part of a special mission to resolve the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. On January 18th, the Pakistani leader had already visited Saudi Arabia, where he met with King Salman. He was accompanied by the commander of Pakistan Army General, Raheel Sharif, for talks with the Defense Minister of Saudi Arabia, the de facto head of state - the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia

Iran and Saudi Arabia are traditionally geopolitical rivals in the Gulf and the Middle East as a whole. Saudi Arabia is the second largest US ally in the region after Israel, and adheres thalassocratic geopolitical orientation. Iran has assumed a continentalist stance. Both countries are competitors in the oil market and support hostile branches of Islam - Shiite and Wahhabi.
Iran and Saudi Arabia are currently indirectly fighting each other in Syria and Yemen. The execution of Shiite Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr in Saudi Arabia has put relations between the two countries on the brink of a direct military confrontation.

Pakistan’s Interests

Pakistan has traditionally tried to maintain friendly relations with Iran as a neighboring state, and Saudi Arabia. Pakistani officials have said that the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia weakens the Islamic Ummah. Tensions between the Iranians and the Saudis could affect the security of Pakistan. This is particularly the case in Afghanistan, where there is a possibility of Saudi Arabia encouraging the Sunni separatist movement in Iranian Baluchistan, causing the growth of separatism in Pakistani Balochistan.

Increased tensions between Shiites and Sunnis could trigger a religious war in Pakistan. Although the majority of the population of this country is Sunni Muslim, 20% of Pakistanis are Shiites. Anti-Shia attacks in the past few years have been one of the major security problems of the country.

China’s Interests

Following the visit of the Pakistani leader, the leader of China, Xi Jinping, will visit Riyadh. Pakistan is a key ally of China in South Asia. Most likely, the intermediary mission of Pakistan is agreed with China, who is not interested in the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, as is directly dependent on oil supplies from the two countries, and thus can be affected by a possible war. In addition, China has successfully strengthened its influence in both Saudi Arabia and Iran, and is not prepared to take one side and lose the other. Before Pakistan declared their initiative, Beijing had sent a special Envoy to Tehran and Riyadh.


The efforts of China and Pakistan could contribute to the relative stability of the Cold War between Iran and Saudi Arabia. However, the contradictions between the two countries are so strong that the restoration of relations is impossible. Minor provocations anywhere in the world would be enough for a new escalation in the conflict.