Arab Powers Signal Willingness to Stand up to Iran, even without United States

The move is sure to upset both domestic and foreign critics of the Obama administration, which is leading those negotiations with Iran, and is presumably leading the push to prepare large-scale sanctions relief before the deal is even concluded. But at the same time, Al Arabiya points out that a UN Security Council resolution would more seriously commit the US government to Obama’s planned course of action, and would make it more difficult for Congress to undo the nuclear deal.

In this sense, the move may be viewed as a direct response to Monday’s letter by 47 Republican senators declaring that they would be capable of easily nullifying the deal once Obama leaves office.

At the same time, it is sure to add fuel to congressional opposition to the administration’s strategy. Breitbart notes that Florida Senator Marco Rubio used Wednesday’s Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the authorization for use of military force against ISIL in order to grill Secretary of State John Kerry on the relationship between US policies toward Iran and toward ISIL.

Rubio accused the administration of limiting its involvement in the civil war in Iraq for the sake of not stepping on Iran’s toes in the region and thus potentially compromising a nuclear deal. In fact, Rubio even made the broader implication that the administration’s overall Middle Eastern policy has been largely shaped by a desire to avoid upsetting Iran.

Rubio also reiterated the familiar claim that apparent US-Iran cooperation is having a detrimental effect on American relations with traditional Arab allies in the region. Naturally, Secretary of State Kerry dismissed each of these notions. But the day after the hearings, AFP reported that Kerry left for an economic conference in Egypt, which could be viewed as an attempt to make inroads with alternative allies in the Middle East and North Africa at a time when the US is at odds with Saudi Arabia and other major powers over the issue of Iran’s regional influence.

Indeed, the National Council of Resistance of Iran points out that the Gulf Cooperation Council, which is headed by Saudi Arabia, met on Thursday to discussion regional security where they signaled coordinated opposition to Iran’s meddling in conflicts beyond its borders.

At a time when Baghdad and the Iraqi armed forces are increasingly subordinated to Tehran and its Shiite militias, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid al-Attiyah said, “The GCC Arab States confirm their support for Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity and for the Iraqi government to help it for maintaining security and stability in Iraq, and non-interference in its internal affairs and extending its sovereignty over all its territory.”

Similar remarks were made about Syria, where Iran has propped up the government of Bashar al-Assad and effectively replace the local army with a National Defense Force comprised of foreign Shiite volunteers, Hezbollah, and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force. One defected Syrian military officer described this situation as Assad having “sold Syria to Iran.”

In Wednesday’s hearing, Kerry claimed that his recent visit to Saudi Arabia dispelled the notion that the Saudis are not supportive of US actions vis-à-vis Iran. But the GCC dialogue suggests otherwise, as do various other pieces of commentary emerging from the region.

An editorial in Arab News claims that while the US’s Arab allies are watching closely and hoping for a deal that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, they are also keenly aware of the growing threat of Iran’s influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Bahrain. The author notes that in each of these areas Tehran is fostering greater sectarian divisions and thus exacerbating conflicts.

He also warns that the continued growth of this behavior indicates that “Iran does not feel that its rogue-state conduct in the region is going to upset nuclear negotiations.” This argument points to concerns that US policy is not currently in a position to address both similarly important aspects of Iran policy.

This is particularly interesting because the Daily Beast suggested on Thursday that some Western policymakers and persons close to the Obama administration are well aware of the potential for out-of-control sectarian violence in the event that Iran defeats ISIL with US help.

The article explains in detail how US air support is helping Iran to gain more and more control over Iraqi territory. But this appears to be a deliberate decision, with the recognized risks being simply ignored by the administration and kicked further down the road. Of course, such a strategy is unpalatable to many, and certainly to many policymakers and analysts in the Arab world.

The Tower notes that a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat plainly stated that continuation of America’s current policy of refusing to confront Iran over its continuous expansion of influence in surrounding countries is “leading the entire region into real disaster.”

The author also agrees with many US congressmen and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the nuclear deal currently taking shape is unlikely to prevent Iran from remaining a threshold nuclear state and ultimately obtaining a bomb. To that situation he replies that the all-but-certain outcome will be that Saudi Arabia and perhaps some of its allies will seek a nuclear weapon of their own in order to keep up with their long-time regional nemesis.

Lest this be thought of as mere speculation on the part of individual Saudi commentators, Hot Air reports that the government of Saudi Arabia has made arrangements to employ the help of South Korea in developing two nuclear reactors over the next twenty years. It is a move that Hot Air regards as a Saudi vote of no confidence in the emerging nuclear deal between Iran and the Obama administration.

And of course this nuclear development has great potential to lead to nuclear weapons technology and to fulfill the expectations of many analysts that a weak nuclear deal would set off a regional arms race.