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Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Contrary to President Obama’s policy, Saudi Arabia, the other Arab Gulf States, Jordan and Egypt – just like Israel – are convinced that the transformation of the Ayatollahs from a rogue regime to a law abiding regime should constitute a prerequisite/precondition to – not an outcome of – an agreement with Iran. Otherwise, an agreement would pave – rather than bloc – the way for Iran to become a rogue nuclear power.
Unlike President Obama and Secretary Kerry, and just like Israel, Saudi Arabia is not preoccupied with the technical and procedural aspects of the agreement, but with regional and global rogue, expansionist, subversive, terrorist, non-compliant, anti-American (“Death to America Day”) track record of the Ayatollahs regime since 1979,their gradual occupation/domination of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, their cooperation with North Korea and Venezuela, and their sponsorship of Islamic terrorism via Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic terrorist organizations, operating throughout the world, including the US mainland.
Saudi Arabia focusses on the compounded threat to regional and global sanity, which would be caused by a nuclear Iran. Just like Israel – and contrary to the White House policy of détente with Iran – Saudi Arabia and the pro-US Arab countries are convinced that the lawless track record of the Ayatollahs does not lend itself to effective supervision (as attested by the failed supervision of North Korea and Pakistan), that a bad deal is radically worse than no deal, and that a nuclear Iran must be prevented – by all means – and not contained. They are convinced that clipping the wings of the Ayatollahs constitutes a precondition to a regime change in Iran, halting the tide of global Islamic terrorism and sparing the globe the wrath of a nuclear world war. On the other hand, legitimizing and strengthening the Ayatollahs precludes a regime change, intensifying the egregious, systematic abuse of civil liberties, including the expanding phenomenon of public executions.
According to the editor-in-chief of the leading Saudi daily, Asharq Al-Awsat (March 9, 2015), which reflects the worldview of the House of Saud, “the Iranian regime has every right to be dancing on the rooftops.” He asserts that an agreement with Iran would effectively reward the Ayatollahs for terrorizing the Gulf region and the Middle East at-large, while wreaking havoc in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Bahrain.
Amir Taheri, the Iran expert and veteran columnist of Asharq Al-Awsat, wrote on March 8, 2015: “President Obama may be about to make the biggest of his many foreign policy mistakes…. The deal [with Iran] signals to all nations that building nuclear arms is OK, even for those – like Iran – that promised not to do so by signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty…. [It] is a signal to other developing nations to build nuclear programs of their own…. The deal is bad for regional and world peace and for the Iranian people…. It further discredits the word of America’s presidents. Four Presidents, including Obama, are on record pledging not to allow Iran to build a nuclear arsenal.”
Riyadh is concerned about the fundamentals of President Obama’s national security policy: the subordination of the US unilateral military action to multilateralism; the dramatic cuts in the US defense budget; the underestimation of the threat of a nuclear Iran; the willingness to contain – rather than prevent – a nuclear Iran; the growing reluctance to challenge terrorists in their own trenches (which brings terrorists closer to the US mainland); the eagerness to engage rogue regimes diplomatically rather than confront them militarily; the resulting unprecedented erosion of the US posture of deterrence, which has produced a robust tailwind to Iran’s megalomaniac aspirations and a headwind to America’s allies.
Thus, irrespective of Saudi Arabia’s inherent opposition to the permanence of a Jewish State in the Middle East, and independent of the Palestinian issue, which has never been Riyadh’s “crown jewel,” Riyadh recognize Israel’s effective posture of deterrence in face of the clear, present and lethal mutual danger of a nuclear, apocalyptic, irredentist, imperialistic Iran, which pursues its mega historical goal: the domination of the Gulf, while toppling the pro-US Arab oil producing “apostate regimes.”
Riyadh is aware of precedents which highlight Israel’s critical role in the preservation of pro-US Arab regimes. For example, the 1967 Six Day War devastated the military power of Egyptian President Nasser and aborted his USSR-supported pan-Arab ambitions, including a military surge into Saudi Arabia via Yemen. In 1970, Israel’s posture of deterrence forced a rollback of the pro-Soviet Syrian invasion of pro-US Jordan, which was supposed to be extended into Saudi Arabia. In 1981, Israel destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor, which snatched Saudi Arabia – and the rest of the Arab Gulf states – from the jaws of a nuclear, megalomaniac, pro-Soviet Saddam Hussein, and spared the US a nuclear confrontation with Iraq in 1991. In 2007, Israel eliminated Syria’s nuclear reactor, which would have severely undermined the national security of all pro-US Arab countries. In 2014, Saudi Arabia blamed the Iran-backed Hamas terrorists for Israel’s war in Gaza, expecting Israel to devastate Hamas, which is also terrorizing Egypt and Jordan, providing Iran with a strategic base in the eastern flank of the Mediterranean.
According to the editor-in-chief of the Saudi Al Arabiya newspaper, “[In his March 3, 2015 Joint Session speech,] Netanyahu managed to accurately summarize a clear and present danger to Israel and other US allies in the region…. The only stakeholder that seems not to realize the danger is President Obama.”
President Obama, please tune in to Saudi Arabia.