On Saturday, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman telephoned President Donald Trump and voiced strong support for the latter's "firm strategy" regarding "Iranian aggression and its [Iran's] support for terrorism in the region." The remark is being understood to mean that Saudi Arabia's position on Iran is strikingly similar to Israel's. According to Saudi press reports, “The king praised the Trump administration, which recognizes the magnitude of these challenges and threats and the need for concerted efforts on terrorism and extremism and its primary sponsor, Iran.”

On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump for the same reasons. Netanyahu long criticized Barack Obama for the what he called a "bad deal" with Iran, which were words echoed frequently by Trump during his presidential campaign. Netanyahu said on Friday that  Trump "has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.”

Ever since Trump took office, Saudi Arabia has sought for a united front against the threat posed by Iran. Trump met with leaders of a number of Muslim countries at a summit conference in May, organized by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Iran was cast as the center of terrorism and political subversion in the region. Trump has since decertified the deal struck by his predecessor in which the US unlocked Iranian bank accounts and released millions of dollars in cash to Iran.
In May, they gathered Islamic leaders for a summit with Trump in Riyadh that highlighted Iran as the epicenter of subversion and terrorism in the region. At the summit meeting, Trump denounced what he called the “conflict, terror and turmoil” sponsored by Iran. This was music to the Saudis' ears, according to the former editor of the London-based, Saudi -owned Asharq al-Awsat newspaper, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, who called Trump “courageous.”  Rashed wrote on Saturday, “It’s a correct beginning for regional corrections, or at least stopping the creeping of Iran.” A veteran observer of Middle Eastern affairs, Rashed continued, writing: “The project of Iran is expansive and it wants to have hegemony over the region. It is not only building its nuclear capability for defensive purposes. Iran is waging destructive military wars every day in the region. All of them are expansionist activities.”

According to the Jerusalem Post, Gabriel Ben-Dor of the University of Haifa, said “What the Saudis want from the US is what we Israelis want: to lean hard on Iran; to make sure they don’t cheat and find ways to bypass the nuclear agreement to develop nuclear weapons; to not allow them to develop long-range ballistic missiles unhindered; and to confront them on their support of terror and subversion. The Saudis feel that Trump’s assertive speech is a signal that the US is prepared to do something on these three things critical to the Saudi perception of national security. Their view is quite identical to what we Israelis feel about things on the agenda.” Ben-Dor said the Saudis worry about Iranian subversion across the region: in Yemen and Bahrain.

"These are immediate threats. The nuclear project and long-range missiles are not immediate, but they are very paramount in the Saudis’ thinking about their future,” Ben-Dor said. In Ben-Dor’s view, the Saudis do not want to see the US pull out of the nuclear deal entirely. “They don’t see an alternative. If the agreement collapses now without an alternative agreement and without an international coalition subscribing to an agreed-upon policy, then Iran gets a free hand to continue and develop its own nuclear ambitions more forcefully and without international inspection.” Ben-Dor said that the Saudis want the agreement to "have more teeth, a tougher inspection regime and to expand it to include Iran’s missile program."




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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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