Iran nuclear deal changes Middle East alliances as Saudi Arabia rebels against US

Saudi Arabia threatens to reappraise its entire foreign policy after America's nuclear deal with Iran

Iran nuclear deal changes Middle East alliances as Saudi Arabia rebels against US
Saudi newspapers headlining the deal made with major powers over Iran's disputed nuclear deal Photo: AFP

By Damien McElroy, David Blair and Peter Foster in Washington
9:01PM GMT 25 Nov 2013
Saudi Arabia will adopt a "new defence doctrine" focused on resisting Iranian influence in the Middle East, a senior diplomatic adviser warned on Monday, after the nuclear deal struck with Tehran by six world powers including the US.
As Britain urged the main regional powers to back the agreement, the Saudis offered their grudging support, with an official statement saying that it "could be a first step towards a comprehensive solution for Iran's nuclear programme, if there are good intentions".
But the kingdom's rulers remain deeply suspicious of Iran's intentions - and almost equally wary of America's diplomacy, especially since they were kept in the dark about the secret US contacts with Iran that preceded the Geneva agreement.
Nawaf Obaid, a counsellor to Prince Mohammad bin Nawaf, the Saudi Ambassador to London, accused America of dishonesty. "We were lied to, things were hidden from us," he said. "The problem is not with the deal struck in Geneva, but how it was done."
The response, said Mr Obaid, would be a "new defence doctrine" based on containing Iran.
Saudi Arabia "will be there to stop them wherever they are in Arab countries", he said. "We cannot accept Revolutionary Guards running round Homs [in Syria]."
His comments reflect Saudi fears that America's overtures towards Iran could upset their own traditionally close alliance with Washington. Although Saudi Arabia has great wealth, its military strength is limited and its 75,000-strong army is barely a fifth of the size of Iran's - forcing the country to rely on America as the ultimate guarantor of its territorial security.
"There is no absolute replacement for the US for Saudi Arabia as it casts around for allies, but there is a longer term project of looking to spread its focus," said Daniel Levy, the Middle East director of the European Council for Foreign Relations.
Reflecting official opinion, Arab News, a Saudi newspaper, on Monday carried the main headline: "Nuclear deal sparks Iran hegemony fears."
Saudi Arabia's worries are shared by Israel, which also believes that America is naive about the Iranian threat.
But William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, told MPs that the Geneva agreement ensured that "elements of Iran's nuclear programme that are thought to present the greatest risk cannot make progress".
He added: "If Iran implements the deal in good faith as it has undertaken to do, it cannot use these routes to move closer towards obtaining a nuclear weapons capability."
He urged other countries to support the deal and warned against the consequences of undermining it. "We would discourage anybody in the world, including Israel, from taking any steps that would undermine this agreement," he said.
Opposition to it remains a potential threat in the US, despite President Barack Obama's strong endorsement. In Washington, leading senators are preparing legislation that would restore the sanctions eased under the Geneva deal, if Iran reneges.
Meanwhile the final text of the accord called into question a statement by John Kerry, the US secretary of state, after the talks concluded, when he said: "The first step does not say that Iran has a right to enrichment."
In fact the document says that under the final comprehensive settlement beign aimed at, Iran would have a "mutually defined enrichment programme".
For now, Iran may continue enriching uranium with its 10,000 operational centrifuges, providing it does not exceed the five per cent level needed for nuclear power stations, or add to the overall stockpile.
This suggests that Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, was summarising accurately when he said: "This recognition is there - that Iran will have an enrichment programme."
Hawks in the US Congress are also suspicious of the secret diplomacy that paved the way for the agreement. Oman hosted covert meetings between Iranian and US diplomats and Mr Kerry himself visited Oman in December 2011, one year before becoming secretary of state.
"The White House thought they could strong-arm everyone else into a bad deal, which is why there is now very little in trust in Congress that the president will hold Iran's feet to the fire," said a senior Republican Senate aide. "That's why the consequences of failing to follow through on this deal – tougher sanctions – needs to be enshrined in law."
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, on Monday claimed that his influence during the two rounds of talks had prevented an even worse deal from being signed. "The international pressure which we applied was partly successful and has led to a better result than what was originally planned - but this is still a bad deal," he said.
READ MORE - Iran nuclear deal changes Middle East alliances as Saudi Arabia rebels against US

US flies B-52 bombers in China's air defense zone

Few days ago China asserted that it should be informed of any such flights in advance; US says exercise was long-planned
US flies B-52 bombers in China's air defense zone (© Reuters)
Washington: The US flew two B-52 bombers over a disputed area of the East China Sea in open defiance of China's assertion that it should be informed in advance of any such flights over the region. The airspace was declared as Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) by China a few days ago, a development termed as provocative and dangerous by the US. While the Pentagon did not confirm or deny the B-52 bombers, its spokesperson told reporters that two of its aircraft flew through the dispute zone of East China Sea, without informing China.

"Last night we conducted a training exercise that was long-planned. It involved two aircraft flying from Guam and returning to Guam," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steven Warren, said adding that China was not informed about it. There was no immediate reaction from China. The flight was part of a pre-scheduled exercise, he said.

"It continues to be our view that the policy announced by the Chinese over the weekend is unnecessarily inflammatory and has a destabilising impact on the region, when the fact of the matter is these are the kinds of differences that should not be addressed with threats or inflammatory language, but rather can and should be resolved diplomatically," White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters. The State Department said the US is in consultation with its other friends and allies in the region including Japan and South Korea.

"This unilateral action appears to be an attempt to unilaterally change the status quo in the East China Sea. And this will raise regional tensions and increase the risk of miscalculation, confrontation and accidents. We have made this case to China," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki, told reporters.

The US has raised the issue with China, she said. "We've urged the Chinese to exercise caution and restraint. We're also consulting with Japan and other affected parties throughout the region in response to this announcement," Psaki said. She said the US has long talked about concerns about increasing tensions or the raising of tensions and the impacts that would have.

"At this point, our role is to continue to encourage both sides to move forward with dialogue, to express concerns when we disagree with steps that China has taken, which is the case we've obviously done here. But our position on the islands that this impacts, of course, has not changed," she said. Expressing concern over the Chinese decision, the Pentagon spokesperson said the situation in East China Sea is nowhere near war and is not heading towards an armed conflict. The rules China announced over the weekend stated that it has effectively demanded control over the airspace above a swathe of the East China Sea.
READ MORE - US flies B-52 bombers in China's air defense zone
Copyright © Chief Of War
Powered by Sinlung