Saudis warn Biden to call them before rushing to restore Iran deal


Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat suggested over the weekend that presumptive President-elect Joseph R. Biden will face pushback from Riyadh and other Arab powers if he neglects to consult them in his push to resume the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal.

“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,” Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said at a security conference in Bahrain.

“The only way towards reaching an agreement that is sustainable is through such consultation,” the prince said on the sidelines of the 16th annual International Institute for Strategic Studies Dialogue in the Bahraini capital of Manama on Saturday, according to a report by Agence France-Presse.

The predominantly Sunni Muslim monarchy of Saudi Arabia views the Shia Muslim theocracy in Iran as its central rival in the Middle East and stood firmly against the inking of the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal known as the JCPOA.

Several other Arab powers, including the United Arab Emirates, similarly rejected the accord, as did the government of close U.S. ally Israel. The deal, which saw Tehran limit its nuclear activities in exchange for major international sanctions relief, was signed by the U.S., Iran, China, Russia and several European powers.

Prince Faisal suggested Saturday that the failure to include Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Arab monarchies in the original negotiations paved the way for violence and heightened tensions that have since gripped the region.

“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,” he said, according to Agence France-Presse.

The Trump administration, which has sought to expand the U.S. strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia, pulled the U.S. out of the nuclear deal two years ago. Washington has since re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, and last year carried out a drone strike that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani.

The period also has seen a dramatic uptick in tension between Riyadh and Tehran, with the two engaged in a proxy war in nearby Yemen and with the U.S. blaming Iran for missile strikes against major oil infrastructure inside Saudi Arabia.

With that as a backdrop, Mr. Biden has said he will push to restore the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran — a move the deal’s other signatories, including the Chinese and Russians, as well as European nations seeking to do business in Iran, have also been pushing for over the past two years.

It remains to be seen whether or how a Biden administration intends to consult with or include the Saudis and other Gulf Arab powers in that push.

However, Prince Faisal expressed confidence the incoming U.S. administration is aware of Riyadh’s position. “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,” he said.

While the prince said Riyadh has not yet had discussions on the matter with the Biden team, he added that “we are ready to engage with the Biden administration once they take office.”


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