Wide backing in GCC for Trump’s decision, Riyadh vows to match any Iranian nuclear programme

The day after Trump announced the withdrawal, Saudi air defences intercepted two missiles over Riyadh.
Sunday 13/05/2018
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) is welcomed by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (C) during a visit to Riyadh, on April 29. (AP)
On the same page. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) is welcomed by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir (C) during a visit to Riyadh, on April 29. (AP)

LONDON - Saudi Arabia will pursue its own nuclear weapons if Iran decides to restart its atomic weapons programme, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said.

“We will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it very clear that if Iran acquires a nuclear capability we will do everything we can to do the same,” Jubeir told CNN.

His declaration came as most Gulf Arab countries prepared themselves for the worst after US President Donald Trump announced his withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement with Iran, a move strongly supported by regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

An official statement from Saudi Arabia said Riyadh had initially supported the 2015 agreement based on a need to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

“Iran exploited the economic revenue resulting from sanctions being lifted and used it to continue its activities that destabilise the region, particularly by developing its ballistic missiles and supporting terrorist groups in the region, including Hezbollah and the Houthi militias,” the Saudi statement said.

The United Arab Emirates, Riyadh’s main regional ally, also issued a statement in support of Trump’s decision. It said the JCPOA had not guaranteed that Tehran would refrain from pursuing a nuclear weapon in the future.

The statement also called on the international community to support Trump’s aim of making the Middle East a nuclear-free zone.

The following day, the UAE, in coordination with the US Treasury Department, placed nine Iranian entities and individuals on its list of terrorists and terror organisations for allegedly funneling millions of dollars to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ al-Quds Force (IRGC-QF).

Bahrain, which has often complained of Iranian interference in its domestic affairs, also endorsed the move by Trump.

“The agreement was characterised by several shortcomings, most important of which was not addressing Iran’s ballistic missile programme or Iran’s threat to the security and stability of the region through its interference in the internal affairs of other countries as well as its support for militias in these countries,” a statement by the Bahraini Foreign Ministry said.

Kuwait’s official news service carried an interview with an unidentified Foreign Ministry source saying Kuwait maintains its policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries but that “Kuwait understands and respects the US move.”

Oman, which helped get the United States and Iran to the negotiation table, said it was following the US decision to withdraw from the deal and that it appreciated the position of the other five partners still committed to the agreement.

Qatar, unapologetically, expressed a pro-Iranian reaction. Last June, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt severed ties with Qatar over its ties to militant groups and its relations with Iran.

Qatari state-controlled media, including Al Jazeera, called the US move unjustified.

The channel gave significant coverage to international reactions critical of Trump’s announcement, including from Russian and Iranian officials, as well as former US president Barack Obama.

The Qatari government issued a statement the day after the announcement calling for restraint.

Some of Iran’s proxies, including the Houthi militia in Yemen, increased their attacks on Saudi Arabia with ballistic missiles suspected to have been provided by Iran.

The day after Trump announced the withdrawal, Saudi air defences intercepted two missiles over Riyadh.

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