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October 25, 2013 3:23 pm

Israel and Saudi Arabia to Obama: Don’t Soften on Iran

avatar by Joshua Levitt

Benjamin Netanyahu and Moshe Ya'alon observe a war drill in the Golan Heights, June 26, 2013. Photo: Israel GPO.

Israel and Saudi Arabia are relaying the same message to the U.S., warning President Barack Obama not to soften his stance on Iran, Israel’s Ma’ariv daily reported on Friday.

Ma’ariv said that as Obama sought a delay from U.S. legislators in approving new sanctions against Iran, Saudi Arabian and Israeli leaders sent surprisingly similar messages to stand firm.

Rather than Obama’s vision of sending a signal that the U.S. values Iranian president Hassan Rouhani’s recent conciliatory overtures, senior defense leaders from the two Middle Eastern countries said that Rouhani is only offering false friendship.

Ma’ariv said, in Saudi Arabia, warmer relations with Tehran are being interpreted as cooler relations with Riyadh.

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Ma’ariv quoted unnamed Riyadh media outlets affiliated with the government, as citing the head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, as saying Saudi Arabia is contemplating “significant policy change” and that it would “draw back” relations with Washington.

The newspaper said Israeli officials acknowledged their interests had aligned with the Saudis, but said that their efforts were not coordinated. Off the record, Ma’ariv was told that Persian Gulf countries are secretly counting on Israel to strike Iran if necessary.

Ma’ariv cited Israeli Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon as sharply warning U.S. leadership on Thursday: “Western leaders, do not be tempted by the pleasantness of Iran. Do not be tempted to ease sanctions before you have a clear accomplishment in hand, that Iran does not have nuclear weapons capability, nor the ability to enrich uranium or anything else.”

“We warn against this because we see signs in the West, they are speaking nicely all of a sudden, saying that there is a change in Iran, and therefore we (Western leaders) must meet with them (the Iranians),” the defense minister said. “They are talking about confidence-building measures, humanitarian needs. Exactly what the Iranians want, relief from sanctions before they have stopped the military nuclear program.”

“The tiny State of Israel did not have to jump to the forefront (of the discussion about Iran), and we always try not to be at the forefront, but when no one is talking about this in the right way, we have to say it. To put things very clearly so nothing naive and wishful affects policy.”

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