Not All US Allies Opposed Withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal
Most of the coverage of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull out of the flawed nuclear deal with Iran focused on the dismay of European signatories to the agreement — while ignoring the response of America’s Arab allies who live in Iran’s crosshairs. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt all praised Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal with Iran. Yet it is unlikely that you are even aware of this unless you subscribe to the translations of the Arab press from MEMRI.
For those who missed it, the Saudis called Trump’s decision a “historic event” that would reverse the “international community’s catastrophic mistake of trusting the regime of the ayatollahs.” Egypt expressed the hope that “there will be no more adoption of policies or taking of steps that harm the security of the Arab region.” The UAE hailed “the rectification of a situation that was wrong from the outset.” Bahrain supported the US “commitment to stand up against Iran’s policy and its ongoing attempts to export terrorism in the region.”
It is understandable that attention would be given to the impact of Trump’s decision on our closest allies — Britain, France, and Germany — but they are not the only friends of the United States. And their interest in the Iran deal was more about economics than security. In my view, the unspoken truth is that the Europeans’ main interest in the agreement with Iran was to end sanctions that were inhibiting their ability to do business with the mullahs. The minute Obama lifted US sanctions, they rushed to make billions of dollars’ worth of deals, which they now fear are threatened by Trump’s re-imposition of those measures.
The Europeans gullibly went along with Iranian claims that Tehran was not interested in a nuclear weapon. Even after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved the Iranians were lying about their past research and future intentions by releasing a trove of secret documents, the Europeans supported keeping the nuclear deal, though giving lip service to making changes to the agreement. They pointed to IAEA reports while ignoring the agency’s admission that it is unable to conduct the required anywhere/anytime inspections of Iranian military facilities. The Europeans also dismissed the fact that Iran failed to disclose its past nuclear weapons work as required by the agreement.
Well, perhaps it was not simply naivete on the part of the Europeans. They don’t believe Iran is a threat to them. After all, Iranians do not shout, “Death to Germany, Britain, or France.” They also will not acknowledge that Iran’s agenda is to spread its version of Islam across the globe, because that would force them to admit to the danger of radical Islam, which they fear would offend the growing number of Muslims within their borders.
Trump’s actions did force the Europeans to concede that the nuclear agreement was not the best possible deal they could have negotiated, as their leaders and Obama repeatedly claimed. To forestall Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement, they came up with a variety of proposals to strengthen it that should have been minimum requirements for striking a deal in the first place.
One country that is directly threatened by Iran is Israel. The world has been silent as Iranian leaders repeatedly threaten to annihilate the Jewish state, and as its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon builds up an arsenal of tens of thousands of rockets targeting Israel under the noses of UN “peacekeepers.”
Netanyahu has made no secret of Israel’s willingness to do whatever is necessary to defend its citizens, most recently launching a large-scale attack on Iranian bases in Syria after Iran fired rockets into northern Israel. Proponents of the nuclear deal, seconded by antisemites, have suggested that Israel wants to provoke the US to go to war with Iran when the exact opposite is true. Netanyahu consistently called for a better deal that would prevent a nuclear Iran and he has calibrated Israel’s responses to Iranian aggression to avoid a war.
The one country that has publicly called for the US to go to war to eliminate Iran’s nuclear capability is Saudi Arabia. The Saudis have also publicly declared their intention to obtain a nuclear weapon if Iran builds a bomb.
The Saudis and other Arab states that supported Trump’s decision did so because they are directly threatened by Iran. The Iranians seek to overthrow the Sunni regimes in the region and have been interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries as far away as Morocco (which recently severed ties with Iran). Its proxies are also attacking the Saudis from Yemen and working to destabilize the UAE and Bahrain.
The dismissal of our Arab allies’ concerns was one of the many failures of the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, and why the president who started his term pandering to the Muslim world alienated leaders in Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf. Ties with those countries have improved dramatically since Trump’s election because he has demonstrated a respect for their interests and disdain for Obama’s fantasy that Iran would alter its behavior after receiving a financial windfall from the nuclear deal.
The United States cannot ignore the interests of our European allies, but we should not sacrifice our broader security policies in the Middle East to their narrow interests. The president made the right decision in pulling out of the nuclear agreement and the Europeans need to get on board with tougher sanctions to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon, advancing its ballistic missile program, sponsoring terror, and destabilizing the region.
Dr. Mitchell Bard is Executive Director of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise.