DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s fiery speech this week before the U.S. Congress, in which he argued against an emerging nuclear deal with Iran, has received tacit support from an unlikely quarter — Saudi Arabia.
The oil-rich Sunni kingdom views Shiite Iran as a regional rival that is perhaps even more menacing than Israel.
That was clear in a string of columns this week published in Saudi state-linked media, which is widely seen as reflecting official views and mainstream thought in the kingdom, and which voiced skepticism of President Barack Obama’s efforts to broker a landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran.
“Who could believe that Netanyahu today has taken a better stand than Obama with regard to the Iranian nuclear file?” columnist Ahmed al-Faraj wrote, saying he was quoting a recent remark by Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL). The opinion piece in the Saudi-owned al-Jazira newspaper on Monday, a day before the speech, reflects sentiment shared among some in the Gulf.
On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in the Saudi capital to ease Gulf concerns about the negotiations with Iran, which are aimed at reaching a framework agreement this month and a final deal later this year. Kerry is meeting with the foreign ministers of the Sunni-ruled Gulf states and the new Saudi monarch King Salman.
Like Israel, Saudi Arabia has long viewed Iran as an expansionist power that seeks to dominate the region through local proxies, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Palestinian armed groups in the Gaza Strip and Shiite militias in Iraq. Saudi Arabia and Iran are fighting a proxy war in Syria, with the kingdom arming the rebels seeking to topple Iranian-backed President Bashar Assad.
In a column published in Asharq al-Awsat, a daily owned by King Salman’s family, Abdulrahman al-Rashed wrote “Iran’s fingerprints are everywhere.”