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memri
July 15, 2015 No.
6107

In Gulf Press, Fear And Criticism Of Iran Nuclear Agreement: Obama Is Leaving The Middle East A Legacy Of Disaster

The announcement of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and the P5+1 has sparked widespread reactions in the Gulf states. The leaders of most of these countries, with the exclusion of Saudi Arabia, issued official responses that included congratulatory letters to Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, expressing hope that the agreement would promote stability in the region.

In contrast, Gulf newspapers were filled with editorials and op-eds expressing apprehension and concern about the agreement, and terming it "a disaster for the Middle East," saying that it would "open the gates of evil," and calling it "an historic gift" from the Obama administration to Iran. They also said that it would "change the Middle East forever."

These opinion pieces questioned Iran's honesty and argued that the agreement greenlights its ongoing interference in the internal affairs of its neighbors, its efforts to destabilize them, and its cultivation of terrorist groups in the region as well as in the West. They also claimed that, contrary to the stated goal of the superpowers, which is to prevent Iran from developing its nuclear program, the agreement actually gives Iran the legitimacy, strength, and funds to continue developing its program undisturbed, and paves the way to a nuclear arms race in the Gulf.

Some of the pieces stated that Iran must now prove that its intentions towards the countries of the region are peaceful, and that it has abandoned the "role of villain," as a precondition for the Gulf states to reassess their attitude towards it and to consider dialogue with it.

The following are excerpts from official Gulf state responses as well as editorials and op-eds in Gulf newspapers, from July 14 and 15, 2015.  

Senior Official Saudi Source To Saudi News Agency: We Will Respond Decisively To Any Iranian Attempt To Destabilize The Region

The Saudi news agency SPA's initial response included recognition of the importance of the agreement, but also threats if Iran were to use its new resources to destabilize the region. It cited an unnamed senior official Saudi source as saying that the country "has always recognized the importance of an agreement regarding Iran's nuclear program, which will ensure that it cannot attain nuclear weapons under any circumstances, and which includes a defined and permanent inspection apparatus for all sites, including military sites, as well as an apparatus to re-impose the sanctions quickly and effectively if Iran violates the agreement."

The source noted that at this time, after the agreement, "Iran should use its resources for domestic development and for improving the lives of the Iranian people, instead of for causing riots and sending shockwaves throughout the region - which would evoke firm reactions from the countries in the region."

The news agency also quoted the source as saying:  

The source added: "Since Iran is a neighboring country, Saudi Arabia wishes to develop better relations with it on all levels, based on neighborliness and non-interference in the affairs of others.[1]

Bahraini King Hamad bin 'Issa Al-Khalifa also addressed fears that Iran would continue to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries. Al-Khalifa sent a letter to Iranian President Hassan Rohani congratulating him on the agreement, and expressing hope that "this important agreement will aid in establishing the elements of security and stability in the region, and in improving relations among the countries, which will be based on neighborliness and mutual respect, as well as non-interference in internal affairs."[2] 

Qatar, Kuwait, UAE Leaders To Iran: We Hope The Agreement Brings Regional Peace And Stability

Statements by the rest of the Gulf states included hope that the agreement would help strengthen regional stability and security. The Qatari Foreign Ministry stated: "We congratulate [the sides] on this agreement and see it as an important step; Qatar is determined to preserve peace and stability. We hope the agreement strengthens regional peace and stability."[3]

The official Kuwaiti news agency reported: "Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad sent a letter to Dr. Hassan Rohani, president of our friend the Islamic Republic of Iran, and to Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei, Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, offering congratulations for the historic agreement signed [sic] in Vienna." According to the report, Al-Sabah expressed hope that "this agreement would help strengthen regional security and stability and devote all resources and efforts to develop the countries of the region."[4]

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan also sent a congratulatory letter to President Rohani expressing hope that "the agreement will help strengthen regional security." In a phone conversation with President Obama, UAE Crown Prince Muhammad bin Zayed Al-Nahyan said that he hoped that the agreement "will end military nuclear aspirations and [bring about] a regional disarmament of weapons of mass destruction." Obama, for his part, promised to strengthen U.S. ties with the GCC states, in light of the security challenges that they face.[5] 

The Obama Administration Is Leaving The Middle East A Legacy Of Disaster; Iran Has Received "The Legitimacy, The Strength, And The Funds To Develop Nuclear Weapons"

An editorial in the Saudi daily Al-Yawm stated: "... Iran has not changed, and neither have its aspirations and plots to cause chaos in the Middle East. What has changed is that the administration of President Barack Obama, with its agreement with Iran, has given it an historic gift that helps its efforts to arm itself with nuclear weapons, and grants it international legitimacy. Beyond this historic gift to Iran, the American administration will unfreeze tens of billions of dollars that Iran longs to receive - not to improve its stagnating economy, to help the Iranian poor, or to build hospitals... but to distribute among the terror [cells] in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Africa, and even the U.S. and Europe, in order to escalate the violence and expand terrorism in the Middle East and the world.

"The agreement between the West and Iran... actually strengthens Iranian nuclear facilities; gives Iran time to develop its nuclear weapons undisturbed; lifts the economic sanctions [on it]; enables it to spread the culture of hatred, sectarianism, and death to neighboring countries; and provides Iran with money to fund this destructive plan and spread division among the people...

"This agreement has given Iran the legitimacy, the strength, and the funds to develop nuclear weapons. This means that the agreement has strengthened the option of war and has made peace impossible, because the Iranian regime uses its strength, its resources, and its ties to spread wars, division, and destruction.

"The Iranian nuclear agreement will embolden Iranian to destroy the world, make its military nuclear reactors more immune to international inspection, and make the new impending arms race inevitable, so long as the West gives Iran a free hand on the nuclear issue and gives it all the capabilities and gifts [that it needs] to further threaten the region and the world."[6] 


Iran directs "nuclear agreement" dollars to "terrorism" (Source: Al-Watan, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2015) 

Columnist Randa Taghi Deen wrote in the London daily Al-Hayat: "Iran is not a democratic country that cares for the welfare of its residents... This agreement and the lifting of the sanctions will serve members of the [Islamic] Revolutionary Guard [Corps] who provide state funds to [Iran's] agents in Lebanon, chiefly Hizbullah; to the Assad regime; and to pro-Iranian Iraqi militias... American policy is ambiguous and two-faced. It calls the IRGC terrorists, but at the same time wants to normalize relations with the Iranian regime and its basic component - the IRGC.

"Obama is leaving a disastrous legacy to the Middle East by giving the first person to welcome this agreement with Iran - Bashar Al-Assad - an opportunity to benefit enormously from the Iranian funds and military aid to Hizbullah in order to continue to murder and to expel. The Houthis will also benefit from Iranian funds in order to step up their fighting in Yemen. The schism in Iraq will also expand, because of Iran's profits under this agreement... Iran's money will not reach its people that thirst [for it], but will feed adventures outside Iran and also the destabilization of the Middle East."[7] 

Qatari Daily: The Agreement Changes The Middle East Forever, And Transforms Iran Into A New Regional Superpower

The London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote in an editorial that was published on the eve of the announcement that an agreement had been reached: "[This is] an agreement that will change the Middle East forever. It will reshape international alliances and rivalries, as well as traditional priorities, and change Iran's image in the eyes of the world. [The agreement] will redefine [Iran's] status as a superpower in this vital and volatile region, and [will make it] a member of the superpower club, after attaining legitimacy for its nuclear program in the heart of an environment that is crumbling along racial and sectarian lines...

"One unavoidable result of this agreement is the confluence of Israel's interests with [those] of some Arab countries who see 'a nuclear Iran' as the greatest danger to their influence, and perhaps their existence. Therefore, an 'alliance of necessity' will be formed between these two sides. SInce several other Arab countries are going to focus on fighting terrorist organizations that threaten to topple them - as explained recently by Tunisia's president - observers will have no choice but to assess that there will be even more regression in [dealing with] the Palestinian problem...

"The region could enter a new arms race, from which the weapons-exporting countries would benefit. The Arab countries will be allowed to purchase ready-made nuclear power plants, so that they can 'go nuclear' as well, but with one difference: Washington, and behind it Israel, will not allow the existence of another Iran, which possesses the knowhow and capability to enrich [uranium].

"While military solutions are becoming ever harder [to carry out], if not unacceptable in places like Syria and Yemen, and while the quagmires in other countries are only being perpetuated, we must ask: Has the time come to launch a strategic Arab-Iranian dialogue that recognizes [the existence] of a new regional power [i.e. Iran] instead of continuing down this dark tunnel?"[8]

In the Kuwaiti daily Al-Jarida,  Dr. Ghanim Al-Najjar wrote about the possibility that the agreement would pave the way for negotiations between Iran and the Gulf countries. He stated: "This is an historic agreement... and it opens the door to only two options. The first is to continue the war or wars that are being ignited in the region... The second is that this historic agreement will offer a greater opportunity for an historic arrangement in the Gulf, and perhaps on the Arab level, in order to end the situation of undeclared war in every place and every aspect...

"Historic responsibility requires the leaders of the region to launch serious talks to resolve all sources of tension and to restore the natural situation, security, stability... The nuclear agreement is an opportunity for a comprehensive arrangement in the region..."[9]  

The Agreement Is A Green Light For A Nuclear Arms Race

The for the Saudi daily Al-Riyadh argued in an editorial: "Following this agreement, any country in the region can now join the [nuclear] club, because the conditions to join it have been clearly reformulated. This is while the right to join this club was once reserved for a group of countries that could be counted on the fingers of one hand... This agreement can be seen as a green light to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states to develop a nuclear program that enables them to produce nuclear fuel and more, in order to deter and ensure the stability of the [regional] balance of power and to make sure that it remains undisturbed."[10]

The Saudi daily Al-Madina wrote, also in an editorial: "The superpowers that signed [sic] the agreement must implement its sections diligently and transparently, and must defend the interests and security of the countries that neighbor Iran. They must know that any [Iranian] attempt at deception or fraud will lead to a bitter end, and that the genie of a nuclear arms race will be released from its bottle and will be unstoppable - because every country has the right to defend its security, its stability, and the welfare of its people."[11]  

Jihad Al-Khazen, columnist for the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, wrote that Arab countries must now work to obtain nuclear weapons in order to defend their citizens: "I insist that countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia not only be allowed [nuclear weapons], but that they are not entitled to leave their peoples defenseless while Israel possesses a nuclear arsenal and Iran aspires to possess a similar arsenal. The agreement with Iran comes at the expense of the Arabs and requires the launching of an Arab nuclear program... Of course the ideal situation is a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, but the U.S. protects Israel's arsenal and therefore we must defend ourselves."[12]

Similarly, Daoud Al-Shirian wrote, also in Al-Hayat: "It is sad that Western countries know that the purpose of this agreement is to postpone the date when Iran possesses nuclear weapons, as opposed to preventing it from obtaining them - as if this agreement marks the starting line in the regional nuclear arms race."[13]

 
"Iran" and "U.S at the "Friendship Club" (Source: Al-Iqtisadiyya, Saudi Arabia, July 15, 2015) 

The Agreement Will Increase Iran's Resources - Which It Will Devote To Destabilizing Its Neighbors; We Need An Arab Deterrent Force

Salman Al-Dosari, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote, under the headline "The Nuclear Agreement Will Open The Gates Of Evil": "...The main concern is what happens after the agreement; what its results will be, and political cards Iran will play. No knowledgeable person believes that Iran will halt its policy of destabilizing the region.

"Therefore, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have no choice but to welcome the agreement, which is aimed at ending a chapter of evil - but the real concern is whether it will launch new chapters of evil such as those that Iran has successfully produced, one after the other, despite the sanctions. And what will happen when it regroups?!"[14]

The Saudi daily Al-Sharq wrote in an editorial: "... The lifelines of the Iranian economy will be revived, and the leaders in Tehran will use the political and military achievements granted them by the nuclear agreement to continue their meddling in the countries of the region and their support for extremist and terrorist groups, as well as to continue destabilizing the region with their militias in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq..."[15]


Iran and U.S. trample "Middle East" on their way to "nuclear agreement" (Source: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, July 15, 2015)

The London-based Qatari daily Al-Quds Al Arabi argued: "The U.S. has effectively abandoned the Arabs as strategic allies by arriving at a potential pact, not yet an actual pact, with a country that it still officially accuses of supporting terrorism... The Arabs should establish an Arab deterrent force for themselves as part of a true strategic vision, without any connection to fragile alliances, since hundreds of billions spent on arms deals could not save the Arabs from their current problem."[16]

The Saudi daily Al-Watan stated: "Postponing [Iran's obtaining] nuclear weapons for 15 years in return for the lifting of sanctions on Tehran is a real Iranian achievements that enables the Persian state to turn its attention to regional matters and try to strengthen the role it plays in several Arab capitals such as Baghdad, Beirut, and Damascus... In our assessment, Congress will absolutely not oppose the agreement, whatever the pressure [on it], because it [the agreement] does not constitute a real threat to Israel's security, since its true threat is only to Arab capitals. This is why the U.S. will settle for merely providing guarantees for Israel's security.

"The important thing in the wake of this agreement is that Iran can sell oil and gas, and that frozen Iranian financial assets will unfreeze, which will arouse the Iranian economy. The impact of this on the countries of the region could be negative. , since the action against Iran on the nuclear issue is over and there is no way out but to take other actions to deal with Iran's aspirations in the region. Therefore, the Saudi-Russian rapprochement was the right thing at the right time, and the Gulf states must also diversify their alliances, in this age of polarization that Obama and his current administration have accepted and to which they have surrendered.

"In order to deal with Iranian danger, we must formulate a united Arab view regarding the events in Syria and Iraq, just as happened in Yemen, [where] Iran infiltrated only because of Arab mistakes... International support for this Arab trend has enabled an Arab course of action that can halt any potential Iranian danger."[17] 

Iran Must Prove That It Has Changed Its Policy

The Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa stated: "The sense of relief in several superpower capitals and in the streets and cities of Iran [following the announcement the agreement] is not enough to make us forget the suffering of the Arab peoples because of the role played by Iran and the exploits of the agents of [Iran's] rule of the jurisprudent [i.e. the Iranian regime], whether in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, or Lebanon. Even if we congratulated both sides on the agreement, we in the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] have aspired, and still aspire for this neighbor country to adhere to international laws and treaties, to act in a neighborly fashion, and to work for cooperation in development and economy, in order to restore peace and stability to the region. We were, and still are, convinced that this cannot be done unless Tehran abandons the questionable slogans it has promoted for 36 years, including 'exporting the Revolution' or 'reviving the Persian Empire' or boasting of its control of 'four Arab capitals...'

"Iran, which is intoxicated with its sense of victory in the negotiations on its nuclear program, which lasted 12 years, should persuade [the Gulf states] that it has abandoned the role of villain in international relations and that it understands the limits of its political activity and that its leadership will relinquish its illusions of regional control...

"It is possible that the day after the agreement will offer Iran an opportunity to reexamine its relations with all the countries of the region and to understand, even at this late phase, that since 1979, the GCC states have extended their hand in peace and that they still are, on the basis of respect for the independence of nations and non-interference in their [internal] affairs. Maybe then it will conclude that it is now its duty to rectify its historic mistake by renewing good relations with its neighbors."[18]

The Qatari daily Al-Raya stated: "Iran's view of the agreement as an historic victory that enables it to obtain nuclear technology proves that there are doubts regarding Iran's intentions. Iran is working to destabilize the entire region with its actions in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. If the agreement gives concessions to Iran, then the dangers in the region worsen. Thus, it is crucial that Iran knows that widespread support for a nuclear agreement that heralds its return to the international arena after years of isolation means that it must fundamentally change its foreign policy in the region. This means [that it will] no longer interfere in internal affairs [of other countries], especially in the GCC countries, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq; and that it will adhere to positive cooperation and constructive action to cement security and stability in the region. Furthermore, [Iran] must know that positive action on its part will launch a new phase towards increasing regional and international, as well as domestic, security and stability.

"There are Arab fears, especially in the Arab Gulf countries, that this agreement, although it is positive and ends the Iranian nuclear dossier crisis, comes at the expense of the region. [There are Arab fears] that [the agreement] grants Iran a green light to continue its unacceptable conduct and its interference in the affairs of countries [in the region] by playing a negative role in sparking internal battles and destabilization. Therefore, attempts to reassure the countries of the region, especially those in the Arab Gulf, should be transformed into clear positions that require Iran to refrain from meddling in regional affairs and to not use it [i.e. the agreement] as a bargaining chip to attain further regional influence..."[19]

The Qatari daily Al-Sharq added: "In the current state, Tehran should make a greater effort to restore the atmosphere of trust in its relations with Arab countries, by taking real steps on the ground. Many still look suspiciously at Iranian intentions and regional policies, which some think have sparked tensions in more than one country and region. However, there are increased hopes that this agreement will boost efforts to stabilize the region..."[20]

Endnotes:

[1] SPA (Saudi Arabia), July 14, 2015.

[2] Akhbar Al-Khaleej (Bahrain), July 15, 2015.

[3] Al-Watan (Qatar), July 15, 2015.

[4] Al-Watan (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.

[5] Al-Ittihad (UAE), July 15, 2015.

[6] Al-Yawm (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.

[7] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2015.

[8] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 14, 2015.

[9] Al-Jarida (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.

[10] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.

[11] Al-Madina (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.

[12] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2015.

[13] Al-Hayat (London), July 15, 2015.

[14] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 15, 2015.

[15] Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.

[16] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), July 15, 2015.

[17] Al-Watan (Saudi Arabia), July 15, 2015.

[18] Al-Siyassa (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.

[19] Al-Raya (Kuwait), July 15, 2015.

[20] Al-Sharq (Qatar), July 15, 2015.