Arabs not allied with Iran quiet over nuclear deal

In Iran, the mood was laudatory; in the West, leaders hailed the "bigfirst step." But in the wake of an interim deal on Iran's nuclearprogram early Sunday, there was silence from much of the Arab world.

That'sbecause while Iranian allies Syria and Iraq were delighted, others inthe Arab world's Sunni-led states were worried, analysts say.

"Iam afraid Iran will give up something to get something else from the bigpowers in terms of regional politics - and I'm worrying about givingIran more space or a freer hand in the region," Abdullah al-Askar,chairman of Saudi Arabia's appointed Shoura Council, a quasi-parliamentthat advises the government on policy, told the Daily Star in Lebanon.

"Thegovernment of Iran, month after month, has proven that it has an uglyagenda in the region, and in this regard no one in the region will sleepand assume things are going smoothly."

There were no officialstatements from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain,Qatar, Egypt or Jordan - the Arab countries that are ruled by the SunniMuslim sect and have long been wary of Iran, a Shiite majority country.

ANALYSTS: Israel has means to act against Iran

Thisinterim deal, those countries fear, will give Iran renewed influence inthe region, just as Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting what somebelieve is a proxy war over Syria, with Saudi Arabia arming the rebelsand the Iranians providing aid to the regime of Bashar Assad.

"Iranis not a threat only to Israel; it is a threat to the whole world andespecially to Middle East," said Avraham Diskin, political scientist atHebrew University. "Iran is a Shiite country and very much interested indominating the area while most of the region is dominated by Sunniregimes that are relatively open to the West," although not progressivetoward human rights.

"These regimes feel threatened and,like Israel, have a very strong interest in blocking Iran's potentialnuclear military capabilities."

For this reason, Diskin said, the deal could jump-start a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

"Iran's Arab neighbors in the Gulf, and also possibly Egypt, may not sit and wait" to see whether Iran abides by the agreement. Rather, they may begin to explore how to procure a nuclear arsenal of their own.

The Gulf states have accused Iran of interfering in Bahrain, Lebanon and other countries in the region.

"Thepeople of the region know Iranian policies and Iranian ambitions,"al-Askar added. "And they know that Iran will interfere in the politicsof many countries in the region."

KERRY: 'Verification is the key' in Iran nuclear deal

SaudiArabia has been vocal in its displeasure over the change inWashington's policy toward Iran as well as its reluctance to engage inSyria. Gulf Arab leaders met Saturday night to discuss "issues ofinterest to the three nations," Arab news media reports said.

Saudicommentators said it would be diplomatically impossible for the Saudigovernment to publicly condemn an agreement designed to contain Iraniannuclear ambitions. Some commentators in the Middle East were optimisticabout the deal.

"Anything that lessens tensions in the region is welcome," Khaled Almaeena, editor in chief of the Saudi Gazette, told The Guardian newspaper. "We were all on tenterhooks. We are concerned about the environment and our security."

Meanwhile, Iraq - a Shiite-majority nation that fought a long war with Iran in the 1980s - praised the interim agreement.

"Thedeal between Iran and the six international powers is seen as a majorstep for the region's security and stability," Prime Minister Nourial-Maliki said Sunday. "Iraq supports this step and we are ready tooffer help to ensure its completion."

Palestinian PresidentMahmoud Abbas' spokesman Nabil Abu Rdaineh said it sent an importantmessage to Israel, "to realize that peace is the only choice in theMiddle East." He also said Palestinians want "a Middle East that is freeof nuclear weapons". Israel refuses to say whether it has a nucleararsenal.

An official government statement from Syria praised thedeal. Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is being helped with Iranian arms andfighters to put down a rebellion against Sunnis Muslims, who make upthe majority in Syria.

"Syria believes the agreement is a signthat political solutions to crisis in the region are the best wayforward for securing peace and stability in the region, not foreignintervention or use of force," the state news agency SANA reported.

Someanalysts expressed a hope that the deal represents a real chance forrapprochement after three decades of estrangement with the West.

"Potentially,this is a great opportunity for both sides - Iran and the U.S. - toreduce the rhetoric and try to work together by removing some sanctionsas long as Iran fulfills its side of the bargain," said Yossi Mekelberg,an analyst at the London-based think-tank Chatham House and programdirector for international relations at Regent's University in London.

Buthe was skeptical of those who believe the deal shows Iranian PresidentHassan Rouhani is becoming a "beacon of love for the U.S."

The editor of Al-Arabiya,Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, anticipated the deal being made and wrote overthe weekend that letting Iran remain a nuclear power will prompt othercountries to do the same.

"From a theoretical, political andmilitary perspective, Saudi Arabia will have to protect itself from theIranian regime's nuclear program either with a nuclear weapon or viaagreements that will maintain the regional balance of power and protectSaudi Arabia and the Gulf states," he said. "Logically, SaudiArabia will have to do so, especially since there is a long history ofaggression orchestrated by Tehran against Riyadh."

MarwanBishara, senior political analyst at Al Jazeera, which is owned by thegovernment of the Gulf state of Qatar, said the Saudis are most alarmedby the potential U.S.-Iran detente and the rise of an unrestrained Iranon the Middle East stage.

"Further Saudi-Iranian antagonism will lead to major sectarian escalation with incalculable price for the region," he said.

BREAKDOWN: How the Iran deal was done

Contributing: Michele Chabin in Jerusalem


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