Saudi Prince Bandar Claims Iran Deal Will Be Disastrous

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The former Saudi ambassador to the United States has criticized the deal, and predicts that it will have terrible consequences for the Middle East.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan compared the Iran deal to the failed nuclear agreement with North Korea, but believes it is even worse, writes Adam Taylor for The Washington Post. Bandar sets out his argument in a column for the London-based Arabic news website, Elaph.

Saudi prince accuses Obama of willfully striking a bad deal

He suggests that President Obama is aware of the fact that he is making a bad deal, whereas former President Bill Clinton made the agreement with North Korea in good faith. Bandar believes that Iran’s destabilizing influence in the Middle East will only grow worse as a result of the deal, which will “wreak havoc” in the region.

According to Bandar the deal with North Korea failed because “it turned out that the strategic foreign policy analysis was wrong and there was a major intelligence failure.” He claims that if Clinton had been fully aware of the situation, “he would not have made that decision.”

Bandar then says that in the case of Iran, “the strategic foreign policy analysis, the national intelligence information, and America’s allies in the region’s intelligence all predict not only the same outcome of the North Korean nuclear deal but worse – with the billions of dollars that Iran will have access to.”

He does not believe that Obama is unaware of the risk, but instead is willing to accept some collateral damage because of his beliefs.

North Korea held up as a warning

In 1994, it was believed that North Korea would soon develop nuclear weapons. After Pyongyang announced that it would be withdrawing from the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Agreed Framework was signed between the U.S. and North Korea.

The Clinton administration agreed to provide aid to North Korea if it halted its nuclear weapons program. At the time the deal sparked great controversy in the U.S., and when President George W. Bush came to office he was more aggressive on the issue. In 2002 the U.S. accused North Korea of maintaining a secret nuclear enrichment program.

An angry North Korea then restarted its nuclear program, and withdrew from the NPT in 2003. Until this day there has been no new deal on nuclear weapons despite multiple attempts at restarting talks.

Pyongyang carried out its first nuclear test in 2006, and experts estimate that it now boasts a nuclear arsenal of 10-16 weapons, a number that is expected to grow over the next few years.

Will Iran renege on the deal?

Many commentators have made the comparison between the failed deal with North Korea and the current deal with Iran. Different points of view have emerged as to what can be learned from the failed deal in North Korea.

Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post believes that although the Agreed Framework ultimately failed, it did succeed in stalling the progress of North Korea’s nuclear program. Others have pointed out the differences between North Korea and Iran: George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment argues that Iran has more to gain from sticking to the deal than North Korea did.

Iran stands to profit from the sale of its oil on world markets, a commodity which North Korea does not have. Although the deal will prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, the economic benefits will allow it to support its proxy armies across the Middle East to an even greater extent than it does currently.

Far from diminishing Iran’s status as a regional power, the deal will in fact increase Tehran’s standing and influence. As the dominant regional power, Saudi Arabia is certainly disturbed by the idea of Iran wielding greater influence.

Saudis worried by prospect of resurgent Iran

Bandar’s influence in Saudi Arabia should not be understimated. His stint as ambassador to Washington from 1981-2005 and two years as head of the Saudi intelligence services mean that his opinion will be taken very seriously in some circles.

“People in my region now are relying on god’s will, and consolidating their local capabilities and analysis with everybody else except our oldest and most powerful ally,” he said.

The prince expresses his disappointment with the Obama administration using a quotation from Henry Kissinger: “America’s enemies should fear America, but America’s friends should fear America more.”

His misgivings can be partly explained by the fact that the prospect of an economically prosperous Iran capable of promoting Shia Muslim interests across the Middle East is cause for concern in Saudi Arabia, where the vast majority of the population are Sunni Muslim.

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