Gulf states keep quiet on Iran nuclear deal

Gulf states keep quiet on Iran nuclear deal
Analysis: Official reaction from Saudi Arabia and its allies has been muted.
3 min read
14 July, 2015
Gulf leaders will seek reassurances from the Obama administration [Getty]

The news of the Iran nuclear deal, and the sight of Iran's President Hassan Rouhani and US President Barack Obama delivering synchronised speeches welcoming the deal, set all eyes on Iran's "enemies" in the Middle East region.

Israel's reaction was quick, with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu - who has long banged the drum of impending doom should a deal on Iran's nuclear programme be agreed - called it an "historic mistake".

Netanyahu argued that the money Iran would now receive with the release of its frozen assets would be used to "fuel its terror machine and its expansion and aggression" throughout the region.

Surprisingly, reaction elsewhere has been muted.

Saudi Arabia, along with its allies in the Gulf, has been fighting a cold war with Iran for a number of years, on battlefields as far apart as Syria and Yemen.

Yet, apart from a few "anonymous officials", the Saudis have been silent.

One of those Saudi officials told Reuters that his country had "learned the hard way" not to trust Iran.

     We have learned as Iran's neighbours in the last 40 years that goodwill only led us to harvest sour grapes
- Anonymous Saudi source

"We have learned as Iran's neighbours in the last 40 years that goodwill only led us to harvest sour grapes," the source said.

The Saudi intelligentsia, apparently waiting for an official line from the government, has also avoided commenting thus far, along with the Saudi editorial pages. That may not come until after the Saudis seek reassurances from Obama himself over the deal.

There have been exceptions; the leading Saudi liberal journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who is close to the royal family, said that the deal would have been welcomed by the Saudis, if only Iran did not employ hostile policies in the region.

"The reality forces it [Saudi Arabia] to oppose the deal and to put pressure internationally on all its details, and even to obstruct it, if possible," he said on Twitter.

Another prominent Saudi journalist, Othman al-Omeir, was more welcoming.

"A new dawn in the history of the region emerged from Vienna this morning... The conflict with Iran must transform into a race towards prosperity - more development, a transformation to democracy, increases in production, progress towards building humans," the editor-in-chief of Elaph wrote.

Saudi's chief allies in the Gulf, Bahrain and Kuwait, have also kept quiet - for now.

But other GCC states with warmer relations with Tehran were more open.

The secretary-general of Oman's ministry of foreign affairs - a country that has maintained a neutral stance in the region and hosted secret negotiations between the US and Iran - welcomed the deal.

"Congratulations to the diplomatic community on all sides for the great efforts in reaching a historic win-win accord on [the] Iran nuclear issue," Badr Albusaidi said.

The UAE also officially congratulated Iran on the deal, according to a statement posted by the official WAM news agency.

UAE officials speaking to AFP expressed a more reserved tone, saying that the emirates hoped that this would lead to a "new direction" for Iran in the region.

The UAE, especially Dubai, is a financial artery for Iran, and has been for decades. With the lifting of sanctions the country can expect to see even more money flowing across the narrow Gulf.