The oil-rich Sunni kingdom views Shiite Iran as a regional rival that is perhaps even more menacing than Israel.That was clear in a string of columns this week published in Saudi state-linked media, which is widely seen as reflecting official views and mainstream thought in the kingdom, and which voiced skepticism of President Barack Obama’s efforts to broker a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran.“Who could believe that Netanyahu today has taken a better stand than Obama with regard to the Iranian nuclear file?” columnist Ahmed al-Faraj wrote, saying he was quoting a recent remark by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). The opinion piece in the Saudi-owned al-Jazira newspaper on Monday, a day before the speech, reflects sentiment shared among some in the Gulf.
Signs of Saudi concern are becoming more and more overt, so much so that the Obama Administration flew Secretary Kerry out to Riyadh right after the last round of Geneva talks to reassure the leading Gulf power. But the Secretary and King Salman do not seem to share the same assessment of how things are going. According to The Washington Post:
Kerry’s one-day visit to Riyadh underscores that Israel is not the only country in the Middle East leery of how a deal with Iran may upend the balance of power.“We see Iran involved in Syria and Lebanon and Yemen and Iraq and God knows where,” the Saudi foreign minister said. “This . . . must stop if Iran is to be part of the solution of the region and not part of the problem.”
The Saudis are not going to step right out and say, “Bibi was right,” but this is some very strong signaling that they share Israel’s concerns. And like Israel, they do not seem to be soothed by the Administration’s reassurances.The U.S. may think this deal is the best option, but it is increasingly clear our most powerful regional allies do not agree. They have money, arms, and wills of their own. How they will they choose to use them?