Ever since the negotiations between the administration of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran and P5+1 — the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany — began in earnest in September 2013, and particularly since the announcement of the Lausanne Accord, the Obama administration has been trying to mollify the opponents of the nuclear accord. The most outspoken foes of the agreement are the usual suspects, namely, Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf area. They all claim that the agreement with Iran threatens their national security, but offer no viable alternative to the negotiations and a comprehensive agreement. What they really want is a new war in the Middle East, this time against Iran. As the President rightly stated on April 2 when the Lausanne Accord was announced, insisting that Iran dismantle its nuclear infrastructure and continuing the sanction regime and even tightening it up further will eventually lead to war with Iran.
And how has the Obama administration has been trying to mollify Israel, Saudi Arabia and their allies? By threatening Iran and selling more advanced weapons to them. Last October, the U.S. announced sale of new missiles to Saudi Arabia worth $1.75 billion. This is on top of $60 billion worth of weapons that the U.S. has sold to that nation since 2010.
U.S. allies in the P5+1 have also been busy selling arms to Saudi Arabia. Over roughly the same period, Saudi Arabia has spent $6 billion buying weapons from Britain and paid France another $3 billion to deliver arms to the Lebanese army, which will only worsen the sectarian strife in that nation. The U.S. has also been replenishing Saudi Arabia’s arsenal since it began its aggression against Yemen, which only exacerbates tensions between that country and Iran.
In May, the Pentagon announced sale of $1.9 billion in new weapons to Israel to replenish its arsenal after the Gaza war of last summer in which U.S.-made weapons were used to attack and kill Palestinians. Earlier, in February, U.S. agreed to sell 14 additional F-35 stealth fighters to Israel, on top of 19 fighters agreed in 2010. In April, Germany delivered Israel its 5th Dolphin-class submarine. Germany paid two-thirds of the cost. Germany has already agreed to sell a 6th submarine to Israel.
Why does Israel need submarines, when it faces no challenge in the Mediterranean Sea? These submarines are also armed with nuclear warheads and can stay in international waters for extended periods of time. Thus, they can only be intended for Iran. The German hands that arm Israel with such deadly weapons also sabotage the efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran. And this is while Israel’s own military believes that Iran is not the most dangerous threat to that nation, that Israel will benefit from a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran and that any threat will wane with the agreement.
Other Arab nations of the Persian Gulf are not far behind. In his recent Camp David summit with the Arab leaders, President Obama proposed a common U.S.-built and supported air defense system, similar to Israel’s Iron Dome, for the Arab nations of the Persian Gulf. In May 2014, Qatar signed agreements with the U.S. and France to purchase modern weapons worth $23 billion. Between 2009 and 2013, the tiny United Arab Emirates imported four percent of all the arms sold internationally, spending $35-40 billion. Over the past few years, Kuwait has spent $7 billion to buy new weapons.
Why do these nations need so many weapons? They supposedly want to defend themselves against Iran. But Iran will never attack them. In fact, Iran has attacked no nation for at least 300 years — unless of course they attack Iran first. The reason is simple: any war in the Persian Gulf area will not only involve the U.S. 5th fleet there, but will also close the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, hence choking off Iran’s own route for exporting its oil. So Iran would be committing suicide if it attacked these nations unprovoked.
In addition, the Pentagon has repeatedly stated, most recently on June 3, that Iran’s military doctrine is a defensive one, “designed to deter an attack, survive an initial strike and retaliate against an aggressor to force a diplomatic solution to hostilities.”
Such weapon sales only exacerbate the already unstable and bloody Middle East. Saudi Arabia and its allies have been supporting the terrorist groups in Syria by transforming a struggle there for democratic rule into a sectarian war, have been attacking an essentially defenseless Yemen, intervened in Bahrain militarily to suppress the democratic movement there, supported the coup in Egypt that toppled the democratically-elected government of Mohamed Morsi and backed and participated in the bombing of Libya, which turned that economically-developed nation into a hub for radical Sunni terrorist groups that dispatch terrorists to a vast region, from Syria and Iraq to Mali and West Africa. Why should such despicable regimes be rewarded by selling them even more modern weapons, particularly now that the Saudi Arabia emissaries have declared that they want a regime change in Iran, the very same regime with which the United States is negotiating a nuclear agreement? There is no logic in seeking a nuclear agreement with Iran while at the same time arming the very nations in the region that oppose the agreement.
But the provocations do not end with selling weapons to the foes of the nuclear agreement. The Obama administration has also been threatening Iran over the past two months. President Obama, Vice President Biden, Secretary of State Kerry, Defense Secretary Carter and Deputy National Security Advisor Rhodes have been saying that the military option for dealing with Iran is still on the table. This is not only not what is expected of a side that is interested in the diplomatic resolution of the nuclear dispute but is also contrary to the President’s belief that Iran’s nuclear program has no military solution.
The net effect of this is not only clouding the prospects for a comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran but also poisoning the political atmosphere in Tehran. Just like their American, Israeli and Saudi counterparts, Tehran’s hardliners too oppose the nuclear agreement (as I’ve explained here, here and here). Hardliners in the Majles [parliament] and in the IRGC have been loudly protesting nuclear negotiations with P5+1. Both President Rouhani and Iran’s chief diplomat, Foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, have been threatened with impeachment, and Zarif has even been threatened with death.
Provocations by U.S. allies in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, which has attacked Yemen and supported terrorist groups in Syria only to prevent thaw between Iran and the U.S., will only make Iran’s hardliners more determined in their efforts to scuttle the final agreement. Selling arms to such “allies,” which are acting against the true national interests of this country, will only worsen an already terrible situation in the Middle East. Threatening Iran with military attacks while also negotiating with it only casts doubts on the sincerity of the Obama administration to reach a comprehensive nuclear agreement and to seek out Iran’s help to thwart the advances made by the Islamic State.