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What comes after the Iranian nuclear deal for Saudi?

Had I written this article of mine to comment on the Iran and the P5 + 1 agreement without Operation Decisive Storm currently underway, I might have written a frustrated article expressing a frustrated Saudi opinion. The article might even have been one of capitulation. It might alternatively have been an angry article lamenting our weakness as a consequence of the confusion of priorities that diverted us away from real threats into disagreements over trivial matters.

But I am writing it now as I listen to Brigadier Ahmad Assiri, the spokesman of the Saudi armed forces that are leading the Operation Decisive Storm coalition. I hear him say in full confidence: "If there are Iranian or Hezbollah advisers with the Houthis, then they will meet the same fate." Hence, there is no place in Yemen now – and similarly in other Arab lands– for Iranian advisers or for any militias affiliated with Iran's policy of violence which seeks to impose their sectarian vision. Thus, I no longer pay much attention to whether or not the Americans and the Europeans have reached an agreement with Iran that grants it the right to pursue its "peaceful" nuclear project while lifting partly or totally the sanctions imposed on it.

What concerns me, in my capacity as a Saudi citizen, is this Iranian expansion that is threatening our regional and domestic security, that is using force and intimidation to change our identity and is clashing with the aspirations of the region's people for peace, freedom and the right to choose. Iran has failed in the principles proclaimed by the Iranian revolution of siding with the oppressed and in favour of Islamic unity and freedom. In Syria they stood by a dictator and in Iraq they aligned themselves along sectarian lines. In Yemen, they plotted a coup that used force to impose one particular faction on the people. They seem to have succeeded over the years; the world admires those that are successful even if it does not like them. This is what some US political analysts seemed to say as they expressed support for a new page with Iran.

There are those in the US who still view the region from two perspectives: oil and the security of Israel. These were the two motivations for negotiating with the Iranians in Geneva and now Lausanne. They believe that lifting the sanctions imposed in Iran will turn it into a trade partner. American companies rub their hands as they read through the studies exploring future economic opportunities following the release of this Iranian economic genie from the bottle of sanctions. As far as Israel is concerned, the conditions the US will impose on the Iranian nuclear project will be sufficient to turn it into a peaceful one while maintaining the option of military punishment by Israel and the US should it be proven that Iran is tricking them.

The US has ignored all the causes of Saudi anxiety over Iranian expansion. They have not paid serious attention to all the Iranian violations of the principles of international law and the rules of good neighbourly relations. They were not concerned by the Iranian infiltration of the Iraqi security institutions to such an extent that they ended up being run directly from Tehran. They did nothing to prevent Hezbollah from sending its men and weapons to Syria. They did not stop a single Iranian aircraft even though they knew it was loaded with the most modern weapons and destined for Syria. The same can be said of Yemen, where ships transport weapons and where aircrafts landing in Sana'a bring advisers and trainers. The US knows that all of this threatens the national security of its ally Saudi Arabia. Yet, it was simply content with withdrawing its troops from Al-Anad airbase near Aden when the Houthis were about to lay siege to it.

About two years ago, I was in Istanbul taking part in one of the sessions of the World Economic Forum. The discussion was about the security threats facing the region. I said that the US was no less responsible for the fall of tens of thousands in Syria than Russia and China who vetoed to prevent intervention there more than once. The US also prevented Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar from providing the Syrian opposition with quality weapons, most importantly with thermal rockets that could have limited the ability of the Syrian air force, which – having secured impunity – went ahead with bombing civilians in the liberated areas for punitive rather than military purposes. What I said seemed to annoy an American participant, who was a researcher specialised in defence affairs and who was supposed to be a friend of Saudi Arabia. He responded angrily: "You have F-16 fighter planes and your air force is many times stronger than the Syrian air force. Why don't you take the initiative?"

I kept quiet in anguish for I believed we simply could not do that without an international cover, and specifically a US one. I had even obtained information at the time to the effect that the US had prevented Saudi Arabia and Qatar from sending a cargo of MANPAD thermal rockets that could have changed the balance of power in the battle and save many lives. Clearly, that inability to act is part of a distant past. Within just ten days, Operation Decisive Storm has ushered us, and the entire region, into a different future.

Consequently, it is no longer important whether they sign an agreement or not, or whether they make peace or war with Iran. What really matters is that the Kingdom has regained the initiative for itself and for the region. It now seems heading forward with two important projects; the first is about pulling the rug completely from underneath Iran's feet. The second is no less important. I have been assured by an informed source that the Kingdom's policy with regard to nuclear energy will be completely different immediately upon the signing of any deal with Iran. Whatever Iran secures regarding technologies, or quantities of uranium it is allowed to enrich, the Kingdom will deem them to be equally its right to seek.

The author is a Saudi journalist and writer. Translated from AlHayat newspaper, 4 April, 2015

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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