Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States despise the Islamic Republic of Iran for different reasons, most of which have little to do with global peace and stability. Both the Saudis and the Israelis were quick to issue statements of support when Donald Trump challenged the Obama-led nuclear deal with Iran last week.
Trump has campaigned about pulling out from the agreement, calling it “the worst deal ever”. When the word spread that he intended to decertify it there were some sarcastic suggestions that perhaps he needs to “read the terms of the deal”. Both the US State Department and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have confirmed that Iran has abided by the agreement.
Notwithstanding such assurances, Trump insists that Iran is somehow guilty and so, according to his logic, additional sanctions must be imposed on Tehran. Why has the US President gone so far as to make pronouncements against the Iran nuclear deal despite the positive testimony from his own State Department? The answer is simple: his decision was driven by his contempt for Barack Obama; he is hell-bent on obliterating Obama’s political legacy.
Israel, on the other hand, does not want to have any competition at all in the region; it must retain its hegemony, especially in the nuclear field. Israel’s nuclear proliferation continues unhindered at the Nuclear Reactor Centre in the Negev Desert, also known as Dimona. It has used former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s statement that his country seeks to “obliterate Israel from the map of the world” as a justification to stop Iran’s nuclear programme, even for energy purposes. Moreover, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also dislikes Obama immensely, because he embraced a different position on the Palestine-Israel peace negotiations. The former US President insinuated on several occasions that Netanyahu is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East and was the first in the White House to categorically denounce Israel’s continued construction of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The tensions between Obama and Netanyahu escalated after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed in mid-July 2015 by the P5+1 group: the US, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany. A few months earlier, Netanyahu had manoeuvred his way into addressing the US Congress, bypassing the President with the help of Republican Party speaker John A. Boehner. That move caused huge embarrassment to the Obama administration.
Saudi Arabia’s opposition to Iran is due to a range of issues, both historical and contemporary in nature. The government in Riyadh accuses Iran of encouraging discord in the region, and expanding its influence among the Middle East’s Shia communities. The Saudis also believe that as the “custodians of Sunni Islam” they have the duty to prevent this expansionism.
In all of this there is also an element of envy; Saudi Arabia lacks technological diversity in its economy, with most of its resources and technological know-how concentrated in oil exploration. Israel and Iran are the only regional states that have made significant inroads in nuclear technology. Since the election of Donald Trump, Riyadh has increasingly displayed a degree of influence over US foreign policy. When Trump and his entourage visited Saudi Arabia in May 2017 — his first overseas tour as President — the Saudis pulled out all the stops to impress, and he left the Kingdom with “bags full of goodies”. Since then, Trump has been singing the praises of Saudi Arabia’s role in the international fight against terrorism. He has also criticised Qatar for supporting terrorism and made damaging pronouncements against Saudi Arabia’s Gulf neighbour at the beginning of the ongoing blockade crisis in June this year. The US President was over-hasty in his utterances which were seemingly oblivious of the military cooperation that the Americans have with the state of Qatar. It took his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to calm things down and clarify America’s position.
The P5+1 nuclear agreement was welcomed by most countries around the world. The deal was the culmination of years of negotiations which started in 2006. The aim was to have a peaceful nuclear resolution to the dispute about Iran’s nuclear programme.
Israel and the US accused Iran of developing nuclear weapons while Tehran has maintained that its programme is for peaceful purposes only, and insists on its right to continue it. Iran ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1970; Israel and the US continue to refuse to sign it.
The targeting of Iran’s nuclear programme while ignoring Israel’s raises serious questions about the future of multilateralism and voluntary endorsement of global treaties. Why should any country sign such treaties voluntarily which may later disadvantage them and their people?
Trump’s decision to decertify the P5+1 Agreement will jeopardise America’s international credibility and throws into question its future political commitments. Who will trust US political undertakings in the future? The precedent created by Trump will also add to the chaos currently taking place in international politics.
In conclusion, it must be borne in mind that the US was not alone in reaching the Iran Nuclear Deal; four other permanent members of the UN Security Council were also involved. As such, Trump’s criticism of the deal as “the worst ever” undermines the integrity of those countries that were party to the agreement. Not only are the three major critics of the deal misleading the world for their own reasons, but they are also alienating major players in the international community. Alarm bells should be ringing.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.