The nuclear Arms deal negotiated with the backing of President Barack Obama can open the door to peace. But it requires that Saudi Arabia and Iran come together to strengthen the region and make this deal work.
By Ghassan Michel RubeizGhassan Rubeiz
Once the agreement with Iran is approved (assuming it will be) the future of this deal will largely lie in human relations.
To enhance the prospects of implementing the nuclear agreement the international community should vigorously explore ways to improve the relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The tension between Tehran and Riyadh fuels the conflicts in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon and Bahrain.
Only with diplomacy a successful execution of this international deal could take place. The West must treat Iran with respect and respond to Saudi and Israeli concerns with foresight. There are already mixed signs in communication: While US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asserts that “Iran deal does not prevent military option”, President Obama says “no deal” is “more war”?
Labels could become barriers. Western media keep referring to Iran as a habitual “sponsor of terror”. It is as if Iran is the only state which has committed military mischief.
The nuclear deal is about the promotion of peace, not reinforcing defense. President Obama should not promise Saudi Arabia and Israel additional military support in compensation for concluding an international agreement with Iran. Neither Riyadh nor Jerusalem needs better arms. Both Israel and Saudi Arabia should know well where the real sources of their insecurity lie.
The Saudi political system is more vulnerable today than before; the regime was built on a narrow interpretation of Islam, and now its finds itself fighting groups who have adopted the narrowest model of political Islam.
Israel’s governance is a contrasting mix of ideals with practice, noble aspirations with oppressive policy, secular rule with religious claims on contested land.
For Iran, the challenge of compliance with the nuclear agreement is even greater than for other stakeholders. Iran cannot go far in implementing the nuclear deal, and in taking an important role in conflict resolution within the region, without continuing to commit to internal reform. The major problem of the Islamic Republic is not in its nuclear aspirations; it is in human rights at home.
Suspense is mounting in Washington’s legislation this summer. Given Israel’s strong lobby in Washington, and the formidable opposition of the Republican-dominated Congress, some gestures of appeasement toward Riyadh and Jerusalem are expected from President Obama. Backed by US and international public support, the president’s executive authority will most likely save the nuclear deal from congressional counterproductive action. Many in the Jewish community believe that Netanyahu’s crusade against Iran will not serve Israel’s long-term interests.
After saving the “deal” from domestic threats over the next two months, Obama should focus on bringing Iran and Saudi Arabia to the table of diplomacy. It was prudent of the US president last week to appeal to the Arab states to start a “practical conversation” with Iran.
Both Iran and Saudi Arabia want mediation in Syria and Yemen, and they have been seeking resolutions through the United Nations in previous Geneva-based conferences. It is high time to make the diplomacy of these conferences come to fruition.
A political breakthrough for Syria would require Saudi Arabia to recognize Iran as a pivotal partner in peace-making. Tehran would then be expected to ease President Assad out of power but assure a degree of continuation of his regime’s institutions and the security of his minority, Alawite, community. In recent days Iran’s foreign Minister Jawad Zarif told the Al Monitor “this is the time to start working together [with the Arab states] and this [is] my government’s most important priority right now”.
In Yemen, the Saudi-led air campaign to defeat the Iran- supported rebels has been ruthless, costly and ineffective. Saudi Arabia must allow the various factions in Yemen to find a Yemeni-inspired political solution.
Diplomatic progress in Yemen and Syria could lead to cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in fighting ISIS- the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-, a common enemy.
Will the nuclear deal evolve to a grand bargain, bringing some stability to a tormented region? A breakthrough in relations between Riyadh and Tehran might well be the awaited harbinger.