April 14, 2021 Special Dispatch No. 9287

Criticism In Saudi Arabia: The Biden Administration Is Determined To Renew Nuclear Talks With Iran – While Ignoring The Apprehensions Of The Countries In The Region

April 14, 2021
Iran, Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 9287

On April 6, 2021, indirect talks began in Vienna between Iran and representatives of the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, with European mediation, with the aim of reviving the 2015 JCPOA nuclear deal between Iran and the P5+1 – the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, and China plus Germany – from which the Trump administration withdrew in 2018. The U.S. participation in the talks angered many in Saudi Arabia, who complained about the administration's insistence on renewing nuclear negotiations with Iran while ignoring the apprehensions of the countries in the region with regard to the danger Iran poses.

Former Saudi intelligence chief Turki Al-Faisal hinted that the new U.S. administration had submitted to Iranian extortion and called on the Gulf countries to prepare for the day when Iran will have nuclear weapons. The Saudi displeasure at the U.S. actions regarding Iran was expressed also in articles and op-eds in its press. They stated that the U.S. and Europe were showing negligence and hesitance in the face of Iran's advancing nuclear program, and that not only did the U.S. lack a consistent policy regarding Iran but it was also falling into line with Iran and leveraging the Iranian issue in order to actualize its interests in the region and in the world. Several of the Saudi writers argued that the Vienna talks would produce nothing and that the Biden administration was continuing the Iran policy of the Obama administration and that therefore the countries in the region must act independently, without regard for the U.S.

It should be noted that since Biden was elected president, fears in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries regarding his policy of conciliation vis-à-vis Iran at their expense have continued to intensify.[1] 

The Vienna talks. Source:, April 9, 2021.

This report will present the criticism in Saudi Arabia about the Biden administration's renewal of nuclear talks with Iran:

Former Saudi Intelligence Chief: The Biden Administration Is Returning To The Nuclear Agreement – And Disregarding The Apprehensions In The Region

Former Saudi intelligence chief and former Saudi ambassador to the U.S. Turki Al-Faisal, who is currently chairman of the board of directors of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, warned at a virtual Bahrain conference on April 8 that returning to the nuclear agreement with Iran would only exacerbate the conflicts in the region and hinted that the Biden administration was willing to submit to Iranian extortion. Calling on the Gulf states to prepare for the day when Iran would have nuclear weapons, he stressed that they were committed to disarmament from weapons of mass destruction.

According to the Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily in English, "Al-Faisal criticized Iran's aggressive behavior towards the Gulf states in particular and Arab countries in general. He told a large virtual Arab forum held by Bahrain's Al-Bilad daily, with the participation of more than 60 leading Arab figures, that the danger of the Iranian leadership was reflected in its 'political hegemony and interference in the affairs of our countries and its relentless pursuit of nuclear technology.'

"Pointing to the dangers of Iran's nuclear program and its aim to acquire ballistic missiles, he said that the region 'lives this danger every day,' and warned that Iran may make moves that are unforeseeable. 'The danger of Iran is not limited to its nuclear program, which it claims to be peaceful, but is [also] because of its rebellious behavior over the past four decades, by interfering in the internal affairs of our countries and covertly working to dismantle the national fabric of our societies,' he told the forum participants.

"He went on to stress that returning to the nuclear deal would not solve the problem of the Iranian regime’s danger to the region, but would instead fuel conflict: 'We in the Gulf States must prepare for all possibilities, especially that of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon, and we are committed to a zone where weapons of mass destruction are prohibited,' he added."[2]

The Arabic version of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published Al-Faisal's statements at the conference, including criticism of the U.S.'s and other Western countries' dismissal of the Gulf countries' fears. He said: "The Gulf countries have clarified the risks posed by Iran's policy in the region. [Their] allies did not take their fears into account because of the naivete of the Obama administration. Nevertheless, the Gulf states welcomed the [JCPOA] agreement [in 2015] provided it contributed to the closure of the [Iranian] nuclear issue and provided that Iran would address the regional issues like one of the countries in the region – not [as it has done, i.e. by exporting its Islamic] Revolution [to it]. Essentially, Iran has stepped up its aggression and bullying and has freed itself from all the restrictions and sanctions on it, with the aim of imposing a hegemonic policy on the region.

"In 2018, the U.S. withdrew from the nuclear agreement in accordance with a decision by the Trump administration, in order to pressure Iran to agree to amend the agreement to take the fears in the region into account. Today, President Biden has returned to the agreement, even though is administration is aware of the concern and the reservations regarding the agreement itself on the part of the countries in the region, in light of Iran's policy and behavior in the region... The countries of the region are examining other options, with the aim of preserving their stability and preparing for the day when the Iranian leadership has nuclear weapons. This is in light of the fact that several of the powers are ready to submit to the Iranian leadership's extortion..."[3]

The world peruses the details of the Iran "nuclear agreement" while ignoring the issue of the "Iranian militias." Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 12, 2021

Article In Okaz: The U.S. Hesitates While The Iranian Regime Advances In Its Nuclear Program

An article on the Vienna talks published April 11 by the Saudi daily 'Okaz stated that the U.S. and the entire world were watching from the sidelines and doing nothing as Iran continued to advance in its nuclear program. It said: "The U.S. has apprehensions regarding how committed Iran is to the international nuclear agreement, but this fear remains in the realm of words only, because the Biden administration has promised to return to the nuclear agreement and has made no decision to stop the arrogant conduct of the Iranian regime in the region. This regime has exploited the American and European impotence in order to drag its feet and defraud [the world]. We were witness to the results of the round [of talks] in Vienna, that ended in nothing...

"The international community needs to unite against Iran, which is striving to obtain nuclear weapons and to undermine security and destabilize the world by funding and providing weapons and military equipment to  the illegitimate terrorist militias. Washington hesitates, Europe evades [responsibility], and the world follows what is happening and remains silent. The regime of the ayatollahs advances in its nuclear program in order to destroy the world – even enriching uranium to 20% [in violation of the restrictions in the JCPOA].[4] What are we waiting for?"[5]

Iran's nuclear program will pop the balloon of the international community. Source: Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), April 11, 2021.

Saudi Journalist: The U.S. Is Using The Iran Issue To Advance Its Own Regional And Global Interests

Saudi journalist Ali bin Hamad Al-Khashiban titled his April 12 column in the Al-Riyadh daily "Why Are The Americans Returning To Iran?". In it, he argued that despite the Iran-U.S. hostility, the U.S. government continues to fall into line with Iran, and fails to maintain a clear and consistent position. He wrote:

"I am concerned when I look at the role played by the U.S. in the shaping of Iran [as it is now]. It has shown more patience [with Iran] than with any other country in the region... Everyone can see that there is deep hostility between the two countries, but history has taught us that the two repeatedly return to square one in their efforts towards agreement and mutual understanding: Iran scores successes, while the U.S... falls into line with Iran's change in direction...

"The American-Iranian story features two unusual and critical [phenomena]. First, there is a country [Iran] attempting to obtain nuclear weapons and take over the region... which has, for over four decades, established militias in every country it managed to enter, until finally it subjugated the country to those militias. The second phenomenon is that the U.S. does not have a firm stance about Iran: it had one president who secretly sold Iran weapons [i.e. President Ronald Reagan in the Irangate scandal]; one who reached an agreement with Iran regarding its nuclear weapons [president Barack Obama]; and one who imposed sanctions on Iran without making a single military move against it [president Donald Trump]. [Now there is President] Biden, who is trying to offer a new answer to our recurring question: 'Why do the Americans return to Iran, even as they [the Iranians] move away from [the U.S.]?'

"Over the past decades, the Iranians have learned how to [maneuver] around the U.S., and the Americans have learned to use the Iranian issue in order to attain political achievements in the region and worldwide. We are left with an important question: What should we learn from one of the most longstanding crises mounting in the region[?] It will not be easy to accept the situation as it is, but it will not be difficult to improve and develop [our] political skills in anticipation of the future of this crisis, which we must understand not in light of its events, but by its objectives."[6]

Saudi Journalist: Insanity Is Doing The Same Thing Over And Over And Expecting Different Results

In his April 7 column in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Saudi journalist Mashari Al-Dhaidi tempered expectations for the Vienna talks, in which delegates of the Biden administration are participating, questioning their purpose and why the Biden administration is returning to the talks even though the situation with Iran is unchanged. He cited the well-known adage stating that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. His article, published in English on, stated:

"Yesterday, a long-awaited round of negotiations began in Vienna between the Iranian regime and the Biden administration after much back-and-forth and many hesitant moves. The endeavors to revive the so-called nuclear deal shifted into full gear again after former U.S. President Donald Trump threw it out the window, demanding a better deal than the defective one his predecessor reached with the Iranians.

"Today, the U.S. administration seems cautious and austere while the Iranian regime seems strong and patronizing. However, neither of these apparent realities is in fact true.

"The Vienna talks held yesterday come in the wake of a videoconference meeting held between the two parties last Friday, which both countries welcomed. The U.S. president said he wished to return to negotiations, but both Tehran and Washington believe the other should take the first step and recommit to the deal.

"Despite Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's call to the EU in early February to coordinate a return to the nuclear deal, Tehran refused to sit down with the U.S. last month for talks called by the E.U..

"The new 'trick' in America's political playbook this time is the slogan 'commitment in return for commitment.' Does that mean Washington will commit once Tehran does or vice versa? Who should commit first and to what? Is there a deadline? Is there an alternative route to take if no commitments are made?

"As the old saying goes, 'insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.' It is unclear whether the main goal is just starting negotiations and talks with the Iran while putting everything else on the back burner, or the ultimate purpose is weakening the Iranian regime. Or, perhaps, the U.S. is seeking to deter and prevent Iran's nuclear program and hostile missile capacities, and put an end to its insidious policies in the Middle East.

"Well, wasn’t Trump taking this path? What changed?"[7]

Leading Saudi Journalist: Iran Is Setting The Tone For The Vienna Talks; The West Wants An Agreement As Soon As Possible, Regardless Of Its Content

Saudi journalist Tariq Al-Homayed, former Al-Sharq Al-Awsat editor-in-chief, also argued, in an article published April 11, that the Vienna talks are based on the Iranian agenda. Critiquing the West, he said that it seeks to reach an agreement as soon as possible but does not much care what that agreement says. He wrote:

"Anyone following the negotiations [in Vienna] can sense that the Vienna negotiating table has become the Iranian table, and is not the international negotiating table of the P5+1... Iran wants to first get the American sanctions lifted, and only then to return to the Iranian [negotiating] table. Yet it is Iran itself that is determining what is brought to that table, especially threatening to leave [the talks] if the negotiations include any topics left out of the 2015 [nuclear] agreement...

"Iran is dictating its wants, its conditions, and the duration [of the talks], while the West only wants to arrive at an agreement as soon as possible – before the Iranian election and in the first 100 days of the American administration. Therefore, the negotiating table before us is not international, but Iranian, and the issues discussed at the table are determined by Tehran...

"That is why Israel is still relentlessly attacking Iran in Syria. That is also why are witnessing naval warfare in the region between Israel and Iran, and why the Gulf has true cause to fear the Vienna talks. This concern is justified because in Vienna we are facing an Iranian table, and not an [international] negotiating table."[8]

The Biden Administration Is A Copy Of The Obama Administration

In an earlier article, published March 10, about a month before the talks began, Al-Homayed harshly criticized the Biden administration for its policy on Iran and its nuclear issue, stating that it is a mere copy of the Obama administration. He argued that unfortunately, the Iran policy of the Obama administration is "here to stay and expand" – quoting the motto of the Islamic State (ISIS). His article, published in English on, stated: "Yes, like the ISIS slogan mentioned in the title, the approach of former US President Barack Obama to contain Iran on the basis of the nuclear agreement is 'here to stay and expand.' We see it in every statement and political move around us. We are indeed in Obama’s third term.

"Is it an exaggeration? Not at all! When the current US administration describes the Iranian terrorist militia as a 'backed Shi'ite militia,'[9] without mentioning its affiliation to Iran, we are facing misleading [statements], and, to be precise, we are facing Obama’s approach. Is this Shi'ite militia supported by Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, or Switzerland?! How absurd! Washington’s description of the Iranian Shiite militia as a 'supported Shiite militia' is like Obama’s portrayal of the Syrian crisis as a 'civil war' even before the Syrians took up arms, in order to spare his administration embarrassment at the time, and avoid declaring a position that would anger Iran, with which he sought a nuclear agreement…

"The advocates of this absurd approach do not realize that an exit from the Middle East is never easy…

Well, you made an agreement with Iran and you want to devote yourself to [dealing with the issue of] China. But who is Beijing’s main ally in the region? Certainly Iran. Did you forget the Chinese veto? Are China’s values the same as yours, or are Iran’s values the same as your Western principles? Will Tehran change? It’s an illusion!...

"The Biden administration does not know the etiquette of being at the Middle East banquet, where the hunter does not sit with the prey. Accordingly, it is clear that the Biden administration is an extension of the Obama administration, which is 'here to stay and expand' and will collide with a dead end.

As for our region, as I wrote here in 2013 an article entitled, 'Act as if America Does Not Exist,' we must act again as if it did not exist. It is true that difficult days are ahead, but they will pass. Our countries are ours… Our region is ours, and the wisest will win…"[10]


[1] Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 9, 2021. See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1561 – Concern In Saudi Arabia And Gulf States That Biden Administration's Policy Of Appeasing Iran Will Come At Their Expense, March 3, 2021.

[2], April 9, 2021. Note: The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.

[3] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 9, 2021.

[4] It should be noted that, on April 13, 2021, two days after a power failure at the Natanz nuclear enrichment site, apparently caused by a deliberate explosion, Abbas Araghchi, Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister and head of the Iranian delegation to the Vienna talks, announced that Iran has begun to enrich uranium to 60%. ISNA (Iran), April 13, 2021.    

[5] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), April 11, 2021.

[6] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), April 12, 2021.

[7], April 7, 2021. Note: The original English has been lightly edited for clarity. For the Arabic version of the article, see Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 7, 2021.

[8] Sharq Al-Awsat (London), April 11, 2021.

[9] Apparently a reference to statements by Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby in a March 5, 2021 press conference following the attack on a U.S. base in Iraq.  Kirby spoke of "Shia-backed militias" operating in that country and refused to state explicitly that these militias are backed by Iran. See, March 3, 2021.

[10], March 10, 2021. Note: The original English has been lightly edited for clarity.  For the Arabic version of the article, see Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 10, 2021.


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