In the aftermath of nuke deal

In the aftermath of nuke deal

In this piece, I will try to focus on the impact of the Iranian-Western nuclear deal on two of the region’s polar opposites: Iran and Saudi Arabia. Before US President Barack Obama launched negotiations with the Iranian regime, the relationship was easy to define. Saudi Arabia was in the same camp as the US with regard to economic and political policies, however now, Obama’s administration does not only consider Iran as a partner in terms of the nuclear talks but also views it as a partner in its military operations against the Islamic State (IS) and against the Afghan Taleban. The US is actually no longer an enemy of Iran.
A top Iranian negotiator appeared on CNN to address the initial nuclear deal and explained the secret behind the move. He said the Americans discovered that Iran, after the long-term sanctions, is home to the most stable regime in the region and is the most powerful and influential. Of course, he who is familiar with Iran is aware that not everything he said was accurate. Iran, like Syria and like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, is based on a security-obsessed, ideologically-driven regime.
The regime of Saddam Hussein collapsed only one week after the US invasion began. Syria’s regime, infamous for its tight grip on security, was besieged by rebels who quickly lost their fear of the government. Therefore, Iran’s security-military power may be a reason for its collapse and could actually not amount to strengthening the regime. The Green Revolution consisted of tens of thousands of Iranian youths who took to the streets demanding the fall of the Ayatollah-led regime. Basij forces suppressed them and ended a popular revolution, which opposed the religious Iranian regime — the first revolution since the collapse of the Shah’s regime.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is also based on religious and political legitimacy, along with such identifying markers as tribes, religion and oil reserves. Like other Arab Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia devotes a large chunk of its finances to economically satisfying its citizens, unlike Iran which spends most of its revenues on its military and security institutions, and of course, on its nuclear program.
Still, Saudi Arabia and Iran are similar in terms of sharing several characteristics. Karim Sadjadpour, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment, says the Saudi-Iranian rivalry is sectarian, ethnic and ideological (US-allied vs. US-opposed). The part of his argument regarding Iran’s hostility toward the West no longer stands and after declaring the nuclear agreement, the Iranian regime will tell its citizens that its reconciliation with the US was based upon western surrender. The Iranian regime will therefore market itself as the sole victor in a long drawn-out battle.
However, if Iran does not commit to the nuclear agreement, it poses a problem for Israel. The Israelis are afraid that the religious fascist regime in Tehran may one day press the nuclear button and kill three million Jews. Iran previously sacrificed two million Iranians in the war with Iraq during the 1980s. Saddam, at the time, was willing to reconcile as a result of his weak military situation and Iran accepted because it failed to defeat him outright.
As for the Gulf countries, they have been living under the threat of a possible Iranian attack for decades, even during the days of the Shah. Now, after the nuclear agreement, there’s no doubt that the threat has doubled. There is palpable anger toward the acquiescing Obama administration as Gulf countries feel that, despite the pledges they have upheld with the US, he sold out the region on the cheap and left them to confront their fate vis-à-vis Iran.
I have previously written about the Eisenhower Doctrine, which was signed in 1957 and in which the US pledged to defend Saudi Arabia in general. To comfort the Saudis, Obama announced he would reconfirm the pledge and vowed to defend the borders of Saudi Arabia. Of course, the word “border” was not defined and Obama needs to be clearer in order to put a stop to any Iranian desires, or indeed to the possible desires of Iranian proxies such as Shiite militias. Both could be seeking to attack Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the nuclear agreement.
As for Saudi Arabia, it’s a peaceful country with no aspirations to attack Iran. However, the opposite is true and if the Americans don’t frankly declare their commitment to defending Saudi Arabia from Iran and Iraq, then we will be faced with major regional chaos as a result of the nuclear deal. The Iranians push forward the idea that Obama is not interested in the security of the Gulf and of the US allies in the region, and this Iranian rhetoric will lead to more regional wars.
Saudi Arabia, along with the UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain, are capable of confronting Iran if that’s what it takes. However, such a war will be costly in terms of the ensuing chaos and destruction. There is anger toward the Obama administration because it bases the dispute with Iran solely on the nuclear program when in fact Tehran’s regime is gearing itself up to make geographical gains. Iran’s wars have actually always been against Gulf countries and not against Israel. Iran currently seeks to impose itself as a regional power by neutralizing the West and this will not easily come to be for several reasons, including the sectarian dispute. Iran sees itself as leader of the Shiite sect, which is small in comparison to the Sunni sect. Therefore, the majority of Muslims will view the US as an enemy due to its naive stance on the struggle among them.
Washington is not being asked to adopt a hostile stance against anyone but allowing Iran to be a nuclear country in 10 years or allowing it to be a regional power will lead to a long regional struggle that will increase the price of oil and will prepare the ground for the growth of extremist groups.
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