During the Obama years, Saudi Arabia and its Middle East allies were furious with Washington's perceived indifference to their security concerns over Iran. They could not convince the president that Tehran's ambitions were the greatest security threat to the region.
Then came Donald Trump, who even seemed to regard her view of Iran as the most vicious threat to the region – the world. On Tuesday, Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Obama administration's groundbreaking nuclear deal and five other world powers and impose harsh sanctions that severely damaged the Iranian economy.
But Riyadh, along with the six The Gulf Cooperation Council and its Arab allies will find that the Trump administration, which thwarted the deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, is just a new phase of insecurity and instability in the Initiated region. This instability could push up oil prices, much to the delight of Saudi Arabia. But it could also raise new security, diplomatic and economic concerns. If the deal breaks down completely, Iran's neighbors, who oppose it, may one day be challenged by a country with a nuclear program that is no longer subject to 24-hour review by international inspectors.
In his speech on Tuesday afternoon, Trump quoted Saudi Arabian and regional concerns that "in the years since the nuclear agreement was concluded, Iran has wreaked havoc across the Middle East and beyond, saying it was a cause for failure." withdraw from the nuclear agreement and impose severe sanctions on Tehran. Saudi Arabia's official news agency issued a lengthy statement explaining its support for Trump's move. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain also announced their support. "I think Trump gets top marks for this," Ali Shihabi, founder of the Arabia Foundation, a think tank close to the Saudi leadership, told me. "I think everyone will be very pleased with this step because he is looking at the Iranians."
But Gulf State leaders may be disappointed with the actions of a fickle president with a story in which he made splintering announcements and failed to do so. The Gulf states may expect more of the decline of the agreement than the US can deliver.
"The view of most GCC security experts is that the West was cheated by the Iranians we do not understand and legitimate cavaliers disregard GCC security considerations," said David Des Roches, associate professor at the Middle East South Asia Strategic Center Studies, a think tank of the Ministry of Defense. "But they probably expect more follow-up than we're ready to deliver."
The Saudi rivalry with Iran goes back decades, and until 1979, the fall of the Iranian monarchy in a revolution led by Shiite clerics and their followers. Saudi Arabia's newly anointed crown prince Mohammed bin Salman blamed postrevolutionary Iran for many of the region's suffering, including the influence of the ultra-conservative Wahhabi clergy in its own kingdom.
He and his mentor, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan from the United Arab Emirates, have been actively trying for months to persuade Trump to adopt a tougher stance on Iran. The renunciation of the nuclear contract is part of this effort.
"In a sense, their opposition to the deal, despite the way they felt ignored by the Obama administration, is," says Emile Hokayem, a Middle East specialist at The International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, telling me: 19659002] The Saudis do not like the Iran deal, but they do not regard it as a threat. They see Iran's bigger ambitions as the problem. "The most important thing is this naivety that has driven the Obama administration – this belief that it is a responsible, reliable party has created great concern," Shihabi said. "The termination of the sanctions not only gave false signals, but allowed the regime to continue funding its shameful activities."
Hokayem, who regularly speaks to officials and diplomats in the Arab world, suggested that any satisfaction from the incoherence of the Trump administration would mitigate any policy in Iraq and Syria, two geopolitical battlefields between Iran and Saudi Arabia: "The cooler Heads in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi understand that you have no better position and possibly a worse position, "said Hokayem. "There is no absolute clarity for what's next." There's no sense of Trump's commitment to anything sustainable in the region. "
But Shihabi said Trump's tough stance on Iran, including his pledge Introducing "the highest level of economic sanction" would be difficult to backtrack. "He has now taken a very public stance and made a very clear decision," Shihabi said.
Israel is concerned about the Iranian nuclear program itself, which poses a potential challenge to Israel's putative nuclear arsenal. But Saudi Arabia and its allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and even Morocco, which have recently established formal ties with Iran and accused their allies Hezbollah of supporting rebels in Western Sahara, are more concerned about Iran's intervention on the ground : his support for ideologically fervent militias in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen; its alleged missile deliveries, which are now regularly launched by Yemen Houthi rebels in Saudi Arabia; his political mastery of Arab capitals from Sana'a to Beirut.
"Riyadh was particularly concerned that the deal would strengthen Iran's regional activities and provide them with more money to support allies in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and elsewhere." Elizabeth Dickinson, a The Gulf-based researcher of the International Crisis Group, an international conflict-resolution organization, said:
For many Saudis, these concerns have become reality. In the more than two years since the agreement was implemented, the Iranian deputies have achieved more battlefield success, Tehran's missile program has been expanded and its political influence has increased, although its nuclear program has been kept in check.
But experts warn that the taunting of the nuclear deal could actually further encourage Iran. "If the US did not honor its commitments to the deal, Iran would almost certainly respond," Dickinson said. "Boosting the nuclear deal could mean a moment of catharsis, but ultimately counterproductive."
Worse yet, the possibility that Tehran might use the US withdrawal from the deal to slowly ramp up its nuclear program if the deal is completely broken and Europe does not meet Iran's demands for economic reassurance. While Trump said the JCPOA would lead to a nuclear arms race, Iran's increase in enrichment is a more likely spark for such a crisis. In a speech shortly after Trump's announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to stay with the deal, but he also said he had instructed officials to prepare for a possible "industrial enrichment" if Europe and others failed to take action to improve the US Retreat
"The Iranians are likely to say that the deal is worthless, which means Iranians are returning to a nuclear program," said James Dorsey, a Middle East specialist at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore , "That means you get a nuclear race in the Middle East."
Wendy Sherman, a former US diplomat who helped negotiate the nuclear deal, told reporters in a teleconference on Tuesday: "Iran with a nuclear weapon would be able to project even more power in the region."
For the Gulf, there are other possible effects of the nuclear deal. Oil prices have risen in anticipation of a new crisis in the Middle East and have helped fund Salman's over-reluctant domestic ambitions. But when prices get too high, shale producers in the US have an incentive to enter the market, ultimately lowering prices. "The higher the prices, the faster marginal slate operators can return to the market," said Matt Dabrowski, a political risk adviser in Chicago. Ironically or not, the beneficiaries will be Western slate producers, who will have another chance to swallow Saudi Arabia's market share. "
] While Salman and bin Zayed may be on board with Trump's plan to thwart the nuclear business, not all golfers agree. Dubai, one of the seven principalities of the UAE, competes with China as its most important trading partner and would find it hard to promote the isolation of Iran at a time when its own economy is in a reasonably dangerous state. Qatar, which has been blocked by Saudi Arabia for its independent foreign policy and alleged support for militant groups, could drift further into Tehran orbit. Oman and Kuwait, who are already trying to play a mediating role between Saudi Arabia and Qatar and between Saudi Arabia and Iran, may be under more pressure to choose a party. Turkey, which is playing an increasingly important role in golfing and investment, condemned the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal this morning and confronted Riyadh and Abu Dhabi
"At the moment, the Gulf is already completely torn apart," said Camille Lons Golf specialist at the European Council on Foreign Affairs, said. "It will definitely pull the GCC even further apart."