One of the irritations of coverage of the Iranian deal is the extent to which the American media say reflexively that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States along with Israel oppose the deal. Yesterday on WNYC, for instance, Brian Lehrer urged listeners “not to pigeonhole Israel as the only major opponent of this. It’s also Saudi Arabia, it’s also Turkey… the other Gulf states like Qatar… don’t want Iran strengthened as they see it or even legitimized.” His guest, Fred Kaplan of Slate and the Council on Foreign Relations, agreed and (in otherwise excellent remarks welcoming the accord) said that these countries view the Middle East “entirely as a battleground of Sunni versus Shia … if Iran is suddenly a relegitimized country… this will increase the power of Iran and thereby in their eyes reduce the power of them.”
But wait. Kerry reportedly used a backchannel in the Gulf to gin up the talks. And this Oman publication says that Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia have all welcomed the deal. VOA chimes in:
Qatar and Kuwait have joined the nations praising the nuclear agreement struck between Iran and a group of world powers, while Israel continues to criticize the deal.
Turkey likes the deal too.
Turkey hopes to increase trade with Iran following the deal reached between Iran and world powers last weekend that eases some of the sanctions in exchange for a curb on the country’s nuclear program.
Turkey’s Foreign Minister is going to Tehran today, it’s reported.
And as for Saudi Arabia, which is always held out as a fierce opponent of Iran diplomacy:
#Saudi welcomes P5+1 nuclear agrmt w/Iran as primary step towards comprehensive solution to Iranian nuclear program & a ME free of all WMD
— Saudi Embassy (@SaudiEmbassyUSA) November 25, 2013
Al Jazeera echoes that, from the Saudi cabinet.
Yes it appears there has been grumbling about the deal from Saudi Arabia too. And I’m just stripping the wire; I’m not an expert on any of these countries. Or on Sunni-Shi’a differences either. But then I don’t pretend to be.
The need by so many American journalists to pin opposition to the deal on Arab states is really a manifestation of the Israel lobby. These journalists are trying to take the onus — or the pigeonhole — off forces that are actually far more familiar to them than the Gulf States: Israel and its lobby. It’s like blaming Christian Zionists for the fact that Obama calls Jerusalem the capital of Israel. Or like Chris Matthews blaming neocons and Republican “redhots” for trying to block the deal, and leaving out Chuck Schumer and Robert Menendez, i.e., the bipartisan lobby.
P.S. Can’t wait for Saudi Arabia to push on a nuclear-free Middle East.