Saudi Arabia hopeful for nuclear deal with Iran as tensions in region rise
As U.S. negotiators raced to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before this week’s Tuesday deadline, Saudi Arabian ambassador Adel al-Jubeir expressed hope that a deal would be reached that would ensure regional stability.
“I believe that the negotiations with regards to a nuclear program in Iran are something that the whole world wants to succeed,” he said during an interview on “Meet the Press.” “We’re waiting to see the results of the negotiations before we assess the deal.”
Diplomats have been working in Switzerland over the weekend to reach a framework deal before the deadline.
Al-Jubeir said Saudi Arabia wants to see a deal that denies Iran the ability to manufacture nuclear weapons. His comments come as Saudi Arabian warplanes struck Houthi rebels in Yemen for the fourth straight day. The rebels are backed by Iranian forces in what is seen as a broader conflict between the Sunni and Shiite branches of Islam.
Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, who retired as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency last summer, said on “Fox News Sunday” that Iran is “clearly on the march” in the Middle East to expand its influence and disrupt U.S. foreign policy
“We have to make sure that we step back and understand the full breadth and scale and scope of what’s happening in the Middle East before we cut a deal with Iran,” he said. “I think it’s dangerous.”
Flynn said the U.S. is in the middle of a sectarian war between the two great Muslim powers in the region with Saudi Arabia, a Sunni state, and Iran, a Shiite state.
Last week, the U.S. government began providing intelligence and logistical support to Saudi Arabia to aid its airstrikes in Yemen. At the same time, the U.S. is conducting airstrikes in Iraq in an Iran-backed offensive aimed at ousting Islamic State militants, who are Sunni extremists.
“We have some major problems that we are dealing with and here we are talking to Iran about a nuclear deal with this almost complete breakdown of order in the Middle East,” Flynn said. “This sectarian civil war that’s ongoing between Iran and the various Sunni countries is going to be going on for some time.”
Saudi Arabia is not engaged in a sectarian war by proxy in Yemen, Al Jubeir said, even though he acknowledged the insurgents they are fighting are backed by Iran.
“This is a war to protect the people of Yemen and its legitimate government from a group that is allied and supported by Iran and Hezbollah,” he said. “But I wouldn’t call it a proxy war because we are doing this to protect Yemen.”
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