Saudi Arabia has agreed to launch informal and indirect talks with Iran in an effort to de-escalate rising tensions in the Persian Gulf.

News of the contacts between Riyadh and Tehran would have garnered far more attention in Washington, had it not been overshadowed by U.S. President Donald Trump’s Ukraine impeachment brouhaha, and in Jerusalem, had it not been drowned out by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s increasingly frantic efforts to hold on to power.

Both Trump and Netanyahu should be satisfied that reports of rapprochement between the Middle East’s two great rivals have been pushed to the sidelines. It is, after all, proof of their joint failure: According to reports from the Saudi court, the kingdom’s decision to engage Tehran reflects its assessment that Trump has undermined the U.S. ability to deter Iran through the threat of military force. In Middle East terms, the U.S. president is now seen as a paper tiger.

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