JEDDAH: ARAB NEWS
Published — Monday 25 November 2013
Last update 27 November 2013 3:14 pm
Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries fear that the landmark nuclear deal concluded by world powers with Tehran in Geneva on Sunday would boost Tehran’s regional ambitions.
Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear program in the breakthrough interim deal that world powers claimed was the biggest step in decade-long efforts to deny Iran an atomic bomb.
Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi political analyst and general manager of Alarab news channel, said Gulf states fear the agreement would encourage Tehran to act with a free hand in the region.
“The (Geneva) agreement has reduced the Iran problem to the nuclear level only, while its regional interference is of key concern to GCC countries,” he pointed out.
According to Khashoggi, officials in Gulf countries feel the Obama administration “is no longer interested in regional problems” in the Middle East.
UAE analyst Abdulkhaleq Abdullah said: “Countries in the region no longer have any confidence in the US.”
Abdullah Al-Askar, chairman of the foreign affairs committee at the Shoura Council, warned against Tehran’s hidden agenda. “The government of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an ugly agenda in the region, and in this regard, no one in the region will sleep and assume things are going smoothly.”
Askar said that if the deal did not succeed in preventing Iran from building a bomb it would lead to a nuclear arms race in the region. “I think Saudi Arabia will go ahead if Iran goes ahead (and gets a nuclear weapon). I think Egypt, maybe Turkey, maybe the UAE, would go ahead and acquire the same technology.”
Under the Geneva agreement, Iran will limit its nuclear program in exchange for $7 billion (5.2 billion euros) in sanctions relief. “We are worried,” said Anwar Eshki, head of the Jeddah-based Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies, pointing to the $7 billion.
“We need to know whether these funds will be used by the Iranian regime for its own people, or to further finance crises in the region,” the Saudi official said.
The UAE and Bahrain have welcomed the deal. “The Cabinet hopes this would represent a step toward a permanent agreement that preserves the stability of the region and shield it from tension and the danger of nuclear proliferation,” the UAE said in a statement.
Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa said: “The agreement removes fears from us, whether from Iran or any other state.”
Tehran is a key backer of Syrian President Bashar Assad in his fight against a nearly three-year insurrection. It is also seen as feeding instability in Bahrain and Yemen.
President Barack Obama moved quickly to reassure US allies on Sunday, saying Washington “will remain firm, as will our commitment to our friends and allies — particularly Israel and our Gulf partners, who have good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the nuclear agreement, calling it “not a historic agreement but rather, a historic mistake.”
He reiterated Israel’s right to defend itself, and his hawkish foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman said “all options are on the table.”