Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff Gen Raheel Sharif landed in Riyadh on Monday to act as a mediator between Saudi Arabia and Iran amid growing tensions of a prolonged confrontation between the two long-standing rivals. The premier and army chief will later visit Tehran to try to persuade the two countries to resolve their disputes diplomatically. The motives of the trip remain unclear despite what appears to be in plain sight. Did Iran even express interest in Pakistan mediating in this dispute? So far only Saudi Arabia has been seeing trying to woo Pakistan to pick a side. How far will this intervention be welcomed considering Iran’s newfound freedom from the sanctions and its soaring position of economic power?

The conflict has escalated since senior Shiite cleric Nimr-Al-Nimr was executed in Saudi Arabia despite warnings from Iran’s leaders about the act’s ramifications. And indeed, the Iranian response was as predicted; the Saudi embassy in Tehran and the consulate in Mashhad were torched and vandalized, and as a result, the ties between the two countries were severed, initiated by the Saudis. While the conflict is at the face of it a religious one, evidence suggests that tensions could have been aggravated to serve the interest of the Saudi government who are irked at the possibility that Iran will gain a better regional and international standing than in the past due to the lifting of its sanctions. Aggravating the battle against Tehran could cause the Iranians to take actions, which will lead to renewed sanctions.

Iran is already being treated as a crucial player in Middle Eastern politics. It has a seat at the table in the US and Russian convened diplomatic forum to map a transition out of Syria’s civil war. The US and Iran discreetly co-operate in Iraq in the fight against ISIS. The exchange of American and Iranian prisoners over the weekend emphasizes that Washington and Tehran intend to do business based on interests rather than the enmities of the past. Surely Tehran will be very careful as to not upset this delicate balance at which it now stands.

With a bright future ahead it will not engage in any unnecessary and expensive conflict that would jeopardize all that it stands to gain from the lifting of its sanctions. Keeping this in mind our Premier and COAS probably have a more difficult task ahead of appeasing its strong ally than it does of ‘smoothing out’ the apprehensions of Tehran.