Saudi Arabian society unites to attack Iran deal

Different sections of Saudi Arabian society have united to create a chorus of condemnation for the signing of the historic Iranian nuclear deal yesterday and the United States' role in it.

The agreement, which limits Iran's nuclear activity in return for the lifting of international sanctions on the country, was hailed by Iran and the negotiating parties, which included six world powers - the US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the deal "historic" while US President Barack Obama claimed that "every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off" for the Islamic Republic.

However, other countries, mainly Saudi Arabia and Israel, are not so happy with the agreement. In public, the Saudi elite has yet to express its displeasure about the deal, only calling on Iran to end its regional "interference" and releasing a statement which spoke of hopes for better relations.

"Given that Iran is a neighbour, Saudi Arabia hopes to build with her better relations in all areas on the basis of good neighborliness and non-interference in internal affairs," an official spokesman said on Tuesday.

However, Saudi officials have privately expressed their disappointment at the deal, with one, speaking on condition of anonymity, telling Reuters: "We have learned as Iran's neighbours in the last 40 years that goodwill only led us to harvest sour grapes."

The official added that the accord is set to make the Middle East "a more dangerous part of the world", fueling concerns that the country will act "to wreak havoc in the region".

The Saudi media has also widely criticised the deal, with daily Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which is closely linked to the Saudi royal family, running a cartoon which showed a "nuclear deal" placard placed in the head of a lifeless body, which has "Middle East" inscribed on it. The silhouettes of America's 'Uncle Sam' and an Iranian cleric can also be seen.

Writers condemned the deal in other Saudi outlets. In the daily al-Hayat a columnist said the rise of Isis had led to America and Iran agreeing to the deal, while Saudi daily al-Jazirah ran a column titled "A terrorist Iran instead of a nuclear Iran".

Saudi citizens have themselves taken to social media to express their displeasure at the international community agreeing to the deal, specifically the US, as well as condemning Iran's regional ambitions, using the hashtag #الاتفاق_النووي (the nuclear deal).

One Saudi account accused Iranians of lying by "shouting death to America and Israel" while actually reserving the death for other Muslims.

Another user wrote: "The lifting of sanctions will help Iran to arrange the cards in the conflict zones in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Lebanon" while another tweeted: "Now everything is clear. Saudi will build a nuclear (bomb) - welcome to the Persian empire!" according to Vocativ.

Yesterday, Obama called Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz from Air Force One to discuss the implications of the nuclear deal, a White House spokesman revealed.

Tor Soltvedt, principal Middle East and North Africa analyst at risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft, says that the Saudi elite will be concerned that the nuclear deal did not dampen Iran's regional role, funding Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah and Bashar al-Assad's regime in Syria.

"They are clearly not happy at all about this deal, that's pretty obvious," he says. "In the short term, they are concerned about the regional role of Iran. I think the deal limits Iran's nuclear program but it doesn't really do much in terms of curbing Iran's regional ambitions."

"It's pretty clear that relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran will remain very tense, they will continue to compete in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon," he adds.

The Saudi elite fears that the relief of crippling sanctions on the Iranian economy, set to be implemented once the deal passes the US Congress review, will see Iran's regional ambitions emboldened. Once sanctions are lifted, Iran stands to collect billions of dollars in frozen funds with additional investment from foreign oil and gas companies.

While a majority of the money will be spent on the country's energy infrastructure and the challenges the economy faces, it is feared that a portion of the funds will be directed to groups such as Hezbollah to increase Tehran's influence in the region.

Saudi Arabian society unites to attack Iran deal | Politics