Iran nuclear deal: Saudi Arabia says Gulf states must be consulted if US revives accord
Saudi Arabia says the Gulf states must be consulted if a US nuclear agreement with Iran is revived, warning it is the only path towards a sustainable agreement.
President-elect Joe Biden has signalled he will return the US to a nuclear accord with Iran and that he still backed the 2015 deal negotiated under Barack Obama, from which Donald Trump withdrew.
A return to the agreement, known formally as the joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), would delight US allies in Europe but concern the Gulf states, which have criticised US engagement with Tehran.
Biden has indicated he will bring Iran’s US-allied Arab neighbours, such as Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its arch-rival, into the process.
The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan,said on Saturday: “Primarily what we expect is that we are fully consulted, that we and our other regional friends are fully consulted in what goes on vis a vis the negotiations with Iran.
“The only way towards reaching an agreement that is sustainable is through such consultation,” he said on the sidelines of a security conference in Manama, Bahrain.
“I think we’ve seen as a result of the after-effects of the JCPOA that not involving the regional countries results in a build-up of mistrust and neglect of the issues of real concern and of real effect on regional security.”
Asked whether the Biden administration was already in touch about the shape of a revived Iran deal, Prince Faisal said there were no contacts as yet but that “we are ready to engage with the Biden administration once they take office”.
“We are confident that both an incoming Biden administration, but also our other partners, including the Europeans, have fully signed on to the need to have all the regional parties involved in a resolution.”
Germany said in recent days that a new, broader Iran nuclear accord must be reached to also rein in Tehran’s ballistic missile programme, warning that the 2015 deal was no longer enough.
The German foreign minister, Heiko Maas, whose country currently holds the EU presidency, talked of a “nuclear agreement plus”, in language also deployed by the Saudi minister.
Prince Faisal said: “I don’t know about a revived JCPOA, although one may look to a JCPOA plus plus, something well beyond the JCPOA.
“Because reviving the JCPOA as it exists now will only bring us to the point where we were, which is a deficient agreement that doesn’t address the full issues related to Iran’s nuclear activities and other original activities.”
Saudi Arabia has been targeted with dozens of ballistic missile and drone attacks since the start of last year, including a devastating strike on Aramco’s facilities in the country’s east, which temporarily knocked out half of the kingdom’s crude output.
That strike was claimed by the Tehran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia isbacking he internationally recognised government, but the US said it involved cruise missiles from Iran.
Prince Faisal said the JCPOA was too short in its 10- to 15-year timeframe, and apart from the issue of its missile program and support for proxy groups around the region, did not do enough to address the risk of proliferation.
“As we’ve seen by the Iranian ability now to quickly increase its capacity to increase its enriched uranium stockpiles, such a short timeframe was not enough to contain Iran’s nuclear capabilities,” he said.
As Saudi Arabia looks ahead to building a relationship with the incoming US administration, Prince Faisal said he was confident Biden’s pledge to turn the kingdom into a “pariah” over its human rights failings was just election talk.
“I think electioneering brings out all kinds of comments, and I’ll leave them at that,” he said.
The minister also indicated the kingdom would maintain relations with Trump – after four years of extremely warm ties, notably between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
“The kingdom always remembers its friends,” he said. “And of course we will continue to have, I’m sure, friendly contacts with president Trump.”