DUBAI – Officials of Gulf Arab states traditionally wary of Iran were silent on Friday about an initial deal intended to curb the nuclear program of their regional rival, and state-owned media made only passing mention of the development.
The main evening television news in Saudi Arabia broadacast a segment on the agreement only 40 minutes into its program.
A senior Gulf Arab official said any reaction would come in coming days not from individual countries but from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), an alliance of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman and Bahrain.
Another Gulf source said a reaction would come only after GCC members had made a thorough study of the agreement.
Iran and world powers reached a framework agreement on Thursday on curbing Iran’s nuclear program for at least a decade, a step toward a comprehensive accord that could end 12 years of brinkmanship, threats and confrontation.
Speaking shortly before the news was announced, Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi ambassador to Washington, said Riyadh could not comment until it saw the details of any accord.
“Everybody wants a good deal that prevents Iran from developing an atomic bomb,” he said in Washington.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly hinted that it would seek its own atomic weapons if Tehran ever did the same.
Echoing that line, Gulf Arab commentators reacted to the interim accord by saying it could encourage their oil-rich countries to seek their own nuclear capability.
“This nuclear outline reached today places the benchmarks for acceptable levels of nuclear activity. … This will open the appetite of Saudi Arabia to develop its own nuclear program within those new set ranges,” leading Saudi commentator Jamal Khashoggi told Reuters.
Sami AlFaraj, a Kuwaiti security advisor to the Gulf Cooperation Council, expressed unease at the deal.
“If Iran ever gets away with possessing a nuclear capability one day, we will consider the international community responsible for that, at these negotiations,” he said.
“We will feel free to go and look for a counterweight.”
Saudi Arabia sees Iran as its main regional rival and fears that an atomic deal would leave the door open to Tehran gaining a nuclear weapon, or would ease political pressure on it, giving it more space to back Arab proxies opposed by Riyadh.
Iran denies it seeks a nuclear weapon, and says its atomic program is aimed only at civilian purposes.
A senior Saudi prince, Turki al-Faisal, told the BBC on March 16 that any terms that world powers granted Iran under a nuclear deal would be sought by Saudi Arabia and other countries, risking wider proliferation of atomic technology.