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Saudi prince wants Trump to keep Iran nuclear deal

Prince Turki al-Faisal thinks Trump must not scrap the Iranian nuclear deal [AFP]

Date of publication: 12 November, 2016

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Prince Turki al-Faisal says the US under Donald Trump must uphold the Iran nuclear deal but threaten the Islamic Republic over destabilising activities in the Middle East.
A former senior Saudi official urged President-elect Donald Trump not to lead the US away from the Iran nuclear deal, but to admonish Tehran over its "destabilising activities" in the region.

Prince Turki al-Faisal's comments came in response to remarks made by Trump during his election campaign threatening to move away from the nuclear deal once he assumes office in January.

"I don't think he should scrap it. It's been worked on for many years and the general consensus in the world - not just the United States - is that it has achieved an objective, which is a 15-year hiatus in the programme that Iran embarked on to develop nuclear weapons," Prince Turki said earlier this week.

"To scrap that willy-nilly as it were will have ramifications, and I don't know if something else can be put in its place to guarantee that Iran will not go that route if the agreement is scrapped," the former Saudi intelligence chief and ex-ambassador to Washington said.

Washington and other major world powers reached the landmark agreement, which took effect in January, to lift international sanctions on Iran in exchange for guarantees that it would not pursue a nuclear weapons capability.

Prince Turki said the deal should turn into a "stepping stone" for a permanent programme "to prevent proliferation through the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East".

The US should instead caution the Islamic Republic over its "very adventurous and very destabilising activities" in the Middle East, the Saudi prince said, which has seen Iranian troops backing the Iraqi and Syrian governments, while Tehran provides assistance to powerful insurgent groups such as the Houthis in Yemen and Hizballah in Lebanon.

"I would like to see President Trump marshal American public opinion and American government activity to challenge that view of Iran that it can license itself to interference," he said.

Although Prince Turki currently holds no official role in leadership of his country, his views often reflect those of the kingdom's ruling elite and he is regarded as an influential figure in Riyadh's foreign policy.

The US and Saudi Arabia have enjoyed a decades-old relationship based on the exchange of US security for Saudi oil.

But ties between Riyadh and Washington became increasingly frayed during the eight-year Democratic administration of President Barack Obama.

They also worried that he was tilting towards their regional rival, Shia Iran, which is on the opposing side to Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia in the wars in Syria and Yemen.Saudi leaders felt Obama was reluctant to get involved in the civil war in Syria and other regional conflicts.

Despite Gulf states backing Hillary Clinton during the election, some hope that relations will improve under firebrand Trump.

"[Relations] will be built on interests and not on the US and Western criteria regarding human rights, plurality and freedom of opinion adopted by US President Barack Obama in dealing with the Arab and GCC countries and which would have been continued under [Hillary] Clinton," Hama al-Amer, former undersecretary for the GCC, said.

"Trump will pay more attention to US interests in the region and will reinforce relations with the Gulf on that basis. US relations with GCC states will then improve," al-Amer said.

"The priority should be given to shared interests. For instance, if we want a defence system from the US in the region, then the countries that will benefit from it should pay," he said.

"At the same time, the US has an interest in staying in the region and wants this region to remain stable because it is a major source of oil, so it will pay for the oil. The payment is from both sides and serves their common interests," al-Amer concluded.

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