Herbert London: The Gulf States Accept The Iran Deal Or Do They?
After a lot of arm twisting, the Gulf Arab states publicly backed the Obama administrations nuclear agreement with Iran. On the surface, this appears as a diplomatic victory for the president as he seeks to build support for his signature foreign policy initiative. But is this true?
The positive response from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) composed of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain emerged after months of intense lobbying by the White House. What the administration gave up to achieve its goal is a matter of some speculation.
There isn’t any doubt that the U.S. will offer advanced military material, intelligence-sharing and training. However, from the outset Saudi Arabian officials have said that whatever capability Iran obtains from the deal should be offered to their country as well.
Secretary of State John Kerry held a summit explaining the terms of nuclear agreement to the GCC, but what is undisclosed is whether he was willing to agree to Saudi terms. In other words, if there is a pathway for Iran to obtain nuclear weapons, will the same pathway exist for Saudi Arabia? Kerry refers to the deal with Iran as “the best option.” What that means for Saudi Arabia remains unclear.
It is clear, of course, that this GCC backing undermines pro-Israel groups who oppose the Iran deal because it threatens America’s Middle East allies, albeit Egypt is conspicuously omitted from the acceptance group. Republicans continue to insist, despite the GCC proclamation, that the Iran accord will jeopardize Israel and American interests in the region. They note, as well, that Tehran will use new oil money and revenues to fund its militant proxies in Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
Notwithstanding GCC acceptance of the deal, several notable officials from the Gulf voiced concern that Washington may weaken its alliance in the area as it pursues reapproachment with Iran. It is therefore encumbent on Washington to assure these nations that they will not be abandoned. From the Sunni Arab perspective, sophisticated weapons, radars, missile defense systems and enhanced intelligence operations may be insufficient as reassurances.
Even Kerry said of Iran he “hopes that indeed perhaps there could be a turning of the page, but we have to prepare for the possibility and eventuality that it won’t.” Preparing for the possibility it won’t, probably means the GCC nations require a deterrent, i.e. nuclear weapons of their own. Is this what Kerry really means when he argues the U.S. will do whatever is necessary to provide security for our allies or does he mean these nations will come under the U.S. nuclear umbrella? In any unfolding scenario either America offers nuclear guarantees, nuclear weapons or a green light to secure these weapons.
As many analysts understood from the outset, this Iran negotiation leads inexorably to proliferation, the very condition President Obama said he was trying to avoid. Just as “verification” for President Obama doesn’t really mean verification, but rather selective inspection, “endorsement” by the GCC doesn’t really mean endorsement, but rather tentative acceptance based on a laundry list of incentives.
Arab states have learned the fine art of negotiation. They also understand “taqiyya” – deception to advance the interests of Islam. What seems to be the case is never quite the case. While Secretary Kerry warns of the worst case scenario, he acts as if a rosy future awaits the region. Wiser minds see it differently and I side with the wiser minds.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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