Over the past few weeks, the Saudi royal family seems to have warmed up to an agreement it used to strongly oppose


Story Transcript

CAPTION: Saudi Arabia has long been one of the Iran deal’s fiercest critics, along with Israel. But in the last month it has shifted its position to one of support, which it is now using as leverage for security and reassurance from the United States. PHYLLIS BENNIS, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Saudi opposition to the deal was never really primarily about the possibility of Iran someday maybe getting a nuclear weapon. What they were really worried about and continue to be worried about is the fact that Saudi Arabia sees in Iran a regional competitor for basic issues of power, control of oil, economic power, and crucially military power. BEN NORTON, JOURNALIST: The U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter met with the Saudi royal family and discussed the deal. And at that point, this is in late July, the Saudi royal family changed their position and King Salman now says he supports the deal. This is what some Saudi analysts have claimed. In their view, the nuclear deal may in fact weaken the Iranian regime. They see it as a way of opening Iran to Western influence and to the international community, in a way introducing democratizing elements and things like that. BENNIS: Presumably what happened there is that there was some kind of an agreement that whatever shifts may occur in the future between the U.S. and Iran, the U.S. would continue sending billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, would continue to act as a guarantor of the Saudi state. Three years ago Saudi Arabia led a region-wide arms deal with the U.S. of $60 billion. It was the biggest arms deal in the history of the world. There had never been one anything close to that. And I think that there were probably guarantees made when Ashton Carter was there to visit, the Secretary of Defense, that those deals would continue. GIORGIO CAFIERO, FOUNDER, GULF STATE ANALYTICS: We also should keep in mind that Saudi Arabia is engaged in an ongoing military campaign in Yemen that the United States is backing. If it weren’t for Washington’s support Saudi Arabia would not be able to carry out the military campaign the way it is right now. And I think Saudi Arabia, for all of its reservations about the nuclear agreement, they really wanted to play the good ally and not do what the Israeli government did and officially oppose the agreement. So we might see Saudi Arabia pursue these proxy wars in the region more aggressively. And of course there are some great risks to that, as the continuation of the crises in Syria and Yemen helps out groups like Daish and al-Qaeda more than anyone else. And I think this kind of a reaction on the part of Saudi Arabia entails much risk for the region.

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Phyllis Bennis

Phyllis Bennis is a Fellow and the Director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC.  Her books include Understanding ISIS & the New Global War on Terror, and the latest updated edition of Understanding the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict: A Primer.