The new cold war between Saudi Arabia and Iran has been going on for a while, but has now escalated to a critical stage. It would be great if our President would take a stand and make his position known to the American public. But we’re not dealing with just any President. We’re dealing with Barack Hussein Obama, the guy who buddies up to terrorist and communist nations. We’re talking about a President who treats our enemies like friends and many of our allies like enemies. Pay attention to this very important situation in the Middle East. It could get very ugly…
As the cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia heats up, the Barack Obama administration is trying to straddle the fence and not take sides, but its actions tell a different story — they all seem to favor Tehran.
Following the Saudi government’s announcement Saturday that it had executed 47 prisoners, including a popular Shiite cleric, the U.S. State Department did two things. First, it issued a statement expressing concern that Riyadh’s actions were “exacerbating sectarian tensions.” Then Secretary of State John Kerry called Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, urging him to try to de-escalate the crisis.
Spokesmen for the White House and State Department on Monday insisted that the U.S. was not taking a side, and that Kerry was set to call Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. But U.S. and Arab diplomats tell us that America’s Gulf allies, who feel most threatened by Iran, see things very differently.
The State Department has criticized Saudi Arabia before for executions and its human rights record. But this time, its spokesman, John Kirby, undermined the Saudi claim that Iran’s government was culpable for the attacks on its embassy, noting in his opening statement that Iran appears to have arrested some of those responsible.
What’s more, the Saudis argue that this time the U.S. criticism went too far because the cleric, Nimr al-Nimr, was inciting terrorism. “We do not accept any criticism of the kingdom’s judicial system,” al-Jubeir said Sunday. “What happened was that those who have led terrorist operations that led to the killing of innocent people, were convicted.”
Following Saudi Arabia’s decision Sunday to cut diplomatic ties and end Iran-bound commercial flights, Bahrain, Sudan and the United Arab Emirates also downgraded relations. One senior Gulf diplomat told us he expected other Sunni Arab states would follow suit.
At the root of the problem for Sunni Arab states is the nuclear deal reached last summer by Iran and Western nations. When the White House sold the pact to Congress and Middle Eastern allies, its message was clear: Nothing in the deal would prevent the U.S. from sanctioning Iran for non-nuclear issues. Yet that has not been the case.
Last week, the Treasury Department balked at the last moment on sanctioning 11 entities and individuals it deemed responsible for helping the Iranian government develop its ballistic missile program in violation of United Nations sanctions. Treasury officials had told lawmakers the new sanctions would be announced Dec. 30, but then the announcement never came.
Hill staffers briefed on the issue said that the State Department had intervened at the last minute, following objections by the Iranian government. A senior administration official told us the sanctions weren’t dead and that the U.S. was still working through some remaining issues, but didn’t specify any timetable.
A week earlier, Kerry wrote personally to Zarif to assure him that the Obama administration could waive new restrictions in a law passed by Congress that would require visas for anyone who had visited Iran to enter the United States. The Iranian government had objected that the visa requirement would violate the terms of the nuclear agreement.
Read more: Bloomberg View