Saudi Arabia’s King Salman backs Israel over Iran nuclear deal concerns
Saudi monarch raises questions about verification and sanction “snap-back” mechanism in meeting with US defence secretary even while saying he welcomes agreement
U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter , left, meets with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdul Aziz, right, at the Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah Photo: Carolyn Kaster
King Salman of Saudi Arabia voiced misgivings about the Iran nuclear deal to Ashton Carter, the visiting US defence secretary, on Wednesday, as the battle for hearts and minds over this month’s agreement moved from the Middle East to Washington.
Mr Carter, on a mission to sell the July 14 accord to America’s Middle Eastern allies, said the Saudi monarch had expressed reservations even while ostensibly welcoming it when they met in the Red Sea port of Jeddah.
It was the second day running Mr Carter had listened to allied concerns about the agreement thrashed out in Vienna, which lifts a catalogue of crippling sanctions against Iran in exchange for its theocratic rulers accepting strict limits on the country’s nuclear programme.
The Pentagon chief on Tuesday met Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, who has denounced the deal as a “historic mistake” and rejected the Obama administration’s offers of beefed-up military aid as “compensation” in favour of fighting it in the US congress.
The Israeli leader declined to respond to President Barack Obama’s offer to boost Israel’s offensive and defensive capabilities when the two spoke in the immediate aftermath of the deal last week, Haaretz newspaper reported, lest it be interpreted as tacit acceptance of the agreement.
Mr Netanyahu and Mr Carter dispensed with the normal protocol of public statements at their Jerusalem meeting- reportedly at the request of the US delegation, according to one Israeli official.
King Salman, who inherited the Saudi throne in January, expressed doubt about the nuclear deal’s verification process, as well as questioning the “snap-back” mechanism for re-imposing sanctions if Iran violated its terms, Mr Carter told reporters.
“Those are the same issues that we know will arise” during the agreement’s implementation, said the defence secretary, who also announced that the king had been invited to Washington to meet Mr Obama.
Saudi Arabia’s Sunni leadership regards mainly Shia Iran as its main regional adversary. The two countries are directly opposed in armed conflicts in Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.
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