By Yoram Ettinger
Contrary to US President Barack Obama’s policy, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt are convinced, just as Israel is, that the transformation of Iran from a rogue regime to a law-abiding one should constitute a prerequisite to – not an outcome of – an agreement with Iran. Otherwise, an agreement would pave the way, rather than block it, for Iran to become a rogue nuclear power.
Unlike Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, and just like Israel, Saudi Arabia is not preoccupied with the technical and procedural aspects of the agreement, but with the regional and global rogue, expansionist, subversive, terrorist, non-compliant, anti-American (“Death to America Day”) track record of the ayatollahs since 1979, their gradual occupation and domination of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, their cooperation with North Korea and Venezuela, and their sponsorship of Islamic terrorism via al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other Islamic terrorist organizations operating throughout the world, including on the US mainland.
Saudi Arabia focuses on the compounded threat to regional and global sanity that would be caused by a nuclear Iran. Just like Israel – and contrary to the White House policy of detente 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 dramatically worse than no deal, and that a nuclear Iran must be prevented at any cost and not just 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 pain 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, which reflects the worldview of the house of Saud, “The Iranian regime has every reason to be dancing on the rooftops” (March 9). 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 Asharq Al-Awsat columnist, wrote on March 8: “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 okay, even for those – like Iran – who 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 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; and the resulting unprecedented erosion of the US posture of deterrence, which has created a robust tailwind for Iran’s megalomaniac aspirations and a headwind for 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 recognizes 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 Persian Gulf, while toppling the pro-US Arab oil-producing “apostate regimes.”
Riyadh is aware of precedents that highlight Israel’s critical role in the preservation of pro-US Arab regimes. The 1967 Six-Day War devastated the military power of Egyptian President Gamal Abdel 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 speech to Congress, “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 listen to Saudi Arabia.