Shocking, we know: the Saudis are none too pleased with the Iran deal, and after biting their tongues for a few days they’re letting their displeasure be known in public. The Times of London reports:
Saudi Arabia and the Gulf powers are prepared to take military action without American support after the Iran nuclear deal, a former Saudi intelligence chief has warned.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who served as ambassador to Washington for 20 years before running the country’s intelligence service from 2005 to last year, said that regional powers had lost faith in America.
“People in my region now are relying on God’s will, and consolidating their local capabilities and analysis with everybody else except our oldest and most powerful ally,” he said.
Does the “everybody” include even Israel, which shares most of the Kingdom’s concerns? It would not surprise us in the least.
It’s hard to tell at this point if this is empty talk or represents another stage in Saudi Arabia’s new and assertive foreign policy. But if the Saudis are truly determined to take an independent line on Iran, then cooperation with Israel will be necessary. Given that the opposition is joining the government in Israel in condemning the deal, Jerusalem seems also to be looking at its options.
Both countries at this point are terrified of an empowered Iran; both are furious enough at the Obama administration to make them cast about for ways to derail Washington’s Middle East agenda—or even just to damage the President’s prestige. Yet for all their rhetoric, both countries are in some ways profoundly conservative and cautious.
Both also have good reason to be wary of Iran, especially when the American protector doesn’t seem to be tilting against it anymore. One of the consequences of “rebalancing” is that the countries that have been rebalanced against tend not to like it very much. And neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia are helpless client states. Feeling abandoned, both have the capacity for independent—or interdependent—action in an increasingly volatile Middle East.