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NUEN 650 Position Statement

Amber Capps
Ashley Booth
Innocent Tsorxe

Saudi Arabia’s Position on the Iran Nuclear Deal
Introduction
According to IAEA, the definition of nuclear security is “the prevention and detection of,
and response to, theft sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts
involving nuclear material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities.”1 The
purpose of this paper is to provide a comprehensive analysis involving Saudi Arabia’s position
about the Iran Deal and the policy implications that will need to be established. Saudi Arabia is
supportive of the Iran Deal and the reasons for their support are outlined in the following
sections.
Past and Present Relationship with Iran
Saudi Arabia’s support for the 2015 Iran Deal and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA) can be attributed to several reasons especially the country’s past and present
relationship with Iran. According to the 2015 Iran Deal and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of
Action (JCPOA) joint statement in Switzerland, the P5+1 countries and Iran agreed on a
framework for a deal. According to this framework, Iran would redesign, convert, and reduce its
nuclear facilities and accept the Additional Protocol (with provisional application) in order to lift
all nuclear-related economic sanctions, freeing up tens of billions of dollars in oil revenue and
frozen assets.2
The joint statement detailed that Iran’s enrichment capacity; enrichment level and
stockpile will be limited for specified duration. There would not be any enrichment facilities
except for in Natanz. In addition, the Fordo, the underground enrichment center will be
converted to a nuclear, physics and technology center. At the start of these agreements, Saudi
Arabia and other Gulf countries, along with Israel, are upset. However, on a recent visit by the
Prime minister of Saudi Arabia, he stated that the Saudi government is satisfied with the Iran
Nuclear deal, and with assurances from U.S. President Barack Obama about the Iran nuclear deal
and believes the agreement will contribute to security and stability in the Middle East.

1

International Atomic Energy Agency, The International Legal Framework for Nuclear Security IAEA International Law Series
No. 4, (2011), http://www-pub.iaea.org/MTCD/publications/PDF/Pub1486_web.pdf.
2
"Joint Statement by EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif Switzerland."
Retrieved 5 December 2015.

NUEN 650 Position Statement
Amber Capps
Ashley Booth
Innocent Tsorxe

It is an undisputable fact that Saudi’s recent decision to support the Iran Nuclear deal can
be related to the two countries past and recent relationship. Bilateral relations between the two
countries have been affected by different political issues such as interpretation of Islamic faith,
desire for leadership of the Islamic world, relationship with the US and oil export policy. The
tension between the two countries soured mainly after the Iranian Revolution, the nuclear
program and the most recent alleged Iran assassination plot. There have also been several
attempts to improve the relationship between the two countries.
Iranian revolution started in the 1979, Iran begun to publicly attack and criticize the
character and Islamic religion of the Saudi Arabian system. Iranian’s took over ownership and
control the main Islamic holy cities of Mecca and Medina. Iran and Saudi Arabia deemed each
other’s religious beliefs as incorrect for decades. All of these resulted to an increase tension
between major sects of Islam, their followers and affiliations. The conflict is considered unlikely
to be resolved any time soon.
In addition both countries are major oil and gas exporters and have clashed over energy
policy. Saudi Arabia, with its large oil reserves and smaller population, has a greater interest in
taking a long-term view of the global oil market and incentive to moderate prices. In contrast,
Iran is compelled to focus on high prices in the short term due to its low standard of living given
recent sanctions after its decade old war with Saddam's Iraq.
Last but not least, Saudi Arabia and Iran are divided by long-standing structural tensions.
The fight and inspiration for Islamic leadership, and each have different visions of regional
order. Saudi Arabia worries about Iran’s asymmetric power and regional powers especially by
expanding alleged pursuit of nuclear weapon. A particular concern in Riyadh is Iran’s capability
to challenge the legitimacy of the al-Saud before regional and domestic audiences upstaging
them on pan-Arab issues such as Palestine.
Nuclear Deal Expected Consequences
Relationships between Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries have been quite
strained throughout history. Distrust amongst the countries stem back to the Gulf Cooperation
Council allies and US backed invasion of Iran. Saudi Arabia’s primary concern is the regional
domination of Iran. Currently, Iran has a stronger military and is more capable economically.

NUEN 650 Position Statement
Amber Capps
Ashley Booth
Innocent Tsorxe

Even despite the sanctions they have been able to spread influence across the region and the
removal of the sanctions will increase Iran’s power.3
Saudi Arabia is also concerned about an alliance drift regarding potential US and Iran
relationships and wants assurance from the US that their alliance will not be abandoned in the
wake of the deal. The US does not support Saudi Arabia in the ongoing wars between Syria and
Yemen, both of which are Iran allies. It seems that Saudi Arabia is demonstrating its willingness
to use military forces to push back Iran’s influence in the Gulf.
Additionally, the nuclear deal has led Saudi Arabia to align with Israel and they have now
offered Israel oil exports and flyovers of Saudi territory if in the event an attack from Iran.4
Therefore, it seems while Saudi Arabia is satisfied that Iran will not be capable to obtain a
nuclear weapon, but they are preparing to align with Israel and maintain US alliances if in the
even Iran tries to overpower Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia has since agreed that the Iran Nuclear Deal will contribute to stability and
security in the Middle East. Even though the deal will allow for the lifting of sanctions against
Iran will increase Iran’s influence and power in the region, the deal will prevent Iran from
obtaining a nuclear weapon and therefore restricts Iran’s ability to obtain ultimate power in the
region. Some critics suggest that the deal will empower Iran economically and will increase the
support of military powers in the region.4
Suspected Failure of the Deal
The goal of the Deal is to prevent and deter Iran from manufacturing or obtaining a
nuclear weapon. As with any reasonable deal, there is a possibility of the deal failing to
accomplish its goal. The opportunity exists for covert operations, despite the agreement’s design
to make this more difficult. Another scenario that could result due to a failure of the agreement is
that Iran could purchase material to manufacture a bomb. Iran and North Korea could collaborate
together to mutually develop a weapon and could result in Iran procuring material from North
Korea. The deal does prohibit such transfers and would require an extensive covert operation.
Detection during transportation is also a possibility and would prompt immediate attention to
3

Haroon Mughul, Saudi Arabia’s Last Best Chance May Be an Alliance with Israel, (Quartz), October 10, 2015,
http://qz.com/520483/saudi-arabias-last-best-chance-may-be-an-alliance-with-israel/.
4 Robert Berke, How the Iran Nuclear Deal can Reshape the Middle East, (The Fiscal Times), September 21, 2015,
http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2015/09/21/How-Iran-Nuclear-Deal-Can-Reshape-Middle-East.

NUEN 650 Position Statement
Amber Capps
Ashley Booth
Innocent Tsorxe

Iran. Threats of a covert operations does not devalue this deal because any reasonable deal could
not prevent that risk.5 From Saudi Arabia’s perspective, this deal is not meant to prohibit Iran’s
power and influence in the region, which is Saudi Arabia’s primary concern. This deal is design
to restrict opportunity to create or purchase material for a nuclear weapon. Additionally, the
consequences of the violating the deal are deterrents for Iran to not want to pursue making a
nuclear weapon e.g. “snap-back” sanctions.
Reservations concerning the Iran Deal
While Saudi Arabia is supportive of the Iran Deal, they have stated some reservations and
suspected failure of The Deal. These reservations however stem from the history between Iran
and Saudi Arabia. Iran’s leadership under Shia Muslim law and Saudi Arabia’s under the Sunni
Muslim leadership have been in opposition for centuries. Saudi Arabia’s monarch has concerns
dealing with the verification and the “snap-back” mechanism of the Iran Deal.4Former Saudi
intelligence chief, Turki al-Faisal, has also voiced concern about the sincerity of Iranian charm
offensive and has even criticized the P5+1 for not including the Gulf Cooperation Council
(GCC) states when negotiating.5 The only real reservation they have aside from the ones
mentioned are mainly that the United States, ensure that they maintain the verification of the
agreement as it is implemented. Also that the “snap-back” mechanism is used if Iran breaks their
side of the agreement.
IAEA’s Perceptions of the Iran Deal
The Deputy Director General Tero Varjoranta are confident of the Iran Deal and believe
they are in line with IAEA safeguards.6 He has stated “that there have been more than 40
instances of letting a country being inspected” who use their own nationals and that they have
not indicated any problems.7
Conclusion

4

Richard Nephew, How the Iran Deal Prevents a Covert Nuclear Weapons Program, Arms Control Association,
https://news.vice.com/article/obama-sells-saudi-king-on-iran-nuclear-deal-during-white-house-visit, September 2, 2015
5
Robert Tait, "Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Backs Israel over Iran Nuclear Deal Concerns," The Telegraph (Telegraph.co.uk),
July 22, 2015, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/saudiarabia/11756739/Saudi-Arabias-King-Salmanbacks-Israel-over-Iran-nuclear-deal-concerns.html.
6
George Jahn, UN Agency: Iran’s Role in Nuclear Probe Meets Standards, September 21, 2015, accessed December 7, 2015,
http://bigstory.ap.org/article/72239ef269414e33a4983e6d91fbf43f/iran-gives-samples-military-site-nuclear-inspectors.
7
Ibid.

NUEN 650 Position Statement
Amber Capps
Ashley Booth
Innocent Tsorxe

Once Iranian sanctions are lifted and Iran can increase its influence and power throughout
the Middle East Saudi Arabia faces some interesting challenges. Saudi Arabia is fortifying their
current alliances and reaching out to create new alliances. Although Saudi Arabia is satisfied that
Iran will not be able to create a nuclear weapon, they are aligning with countries such as Israel
and confirming that Iran will be kept under close watch. It was once considered inconceivable
that Saudi Arabia would align with Israel, but “when the enemy of your enemy is also your
enemy, you’ve no choice but to determine who you’re less afraid of”.8 Saudi Arabia has
expressed a desire to start a weapons program as a deterrent against an attack from Iran, but
currently seems to be content with the consequences Iran faces if the Deal is broken. Saudi
Arabia has also shown their willingness to use military forces against Iranian allies, such as the
attacks in Yemen. Only time will tell how the Iran nuclear deal reshapes the middle east or if the
“snap-back” sanctions will need to be implemented due to noncompliance. Based on Saudi
Arabia’s concern regarding “Snap-back” sanctions and formation of alliances, it seems as though
they are looking at this deal from multiple angles and preparing to resist Iran influences and
would not be disappointed if the sanctions need to be reinstated after the implementation of the
deal. Therefore, Saudi Arabia agrees to the Iran Nuclear Deal, but with hesitation and will
probably continue to attempt to gain alliances and support if in the event Saudi Arabia must
resist against Iran’s increasing powers and will insist that Iran be held accountable if the Deal is
broken.

8

Dalia Dassa Kaye and Jeffrey Martini, For More Information Limited Electronic Distribution Rights Children and Families
Education and the Arts Energy and Environment Health and Health Care Infrastructure and Transportation International Affairs
Law and Business National Security Population AN, (2014),
http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/perspectives/PE100/PE122/RAND_PE122.pdf.