After Iran deal, U.S. overtures to Gulf easier than to Israel

After Iran deal, U.S. overtures to Gulf easier than to Israel

By Phil Stewart

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama may find Gulf allies more receptive than Israel to his offer to "double down" on security cooperation in the immediate aftermath of this week's Iran nuclear deal, even though concerns run deep in both camps.

In an effort to soothe the anxiety of its main Middle East allies, Obama is dispatching Defense Secretary Ash Carter to both Israel & the Gulf next week to reassure them of U.S. security commitments.

p> Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has publicly admonished the deal, rebuffed Obama's personal offer for "intensive" security discussions approximately the way forward, a senior administration official said.

"(The Israeli leadership) have made clear privately & publicly that they do not want to engage in this conversation at this juncture," the official told Reuters.

The agreement is a landmark achievement for Obama, who has made outreach to America’s enemies a hallmark of his presidency.

But Iran is moreover the predominant Shi'ite Muslim power, hostile both to Israel & to Washington's Sunni Muslim-ruled Arab friends, particularly Saudi Arabia.

Critics say the deal contains loopholes, especially in inspection procedures that Iran could exploit, & will provide Tehran with an infusion of unfrozen assets to fund its proxies in sectarian conflicts from Syria to Iraq to Yemen.

Offering a hint of his message to allies, Carter said in a statement approximately the Iran deal that the United States stood ready to "check Iranian malign influence."

One U.S. official acknowledged that Saudi Arabia has privately voiced deep concerns following the accord.

Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former head of

the kingdom's intelligence services, cautioned in a newspaper

opinion piece on Thursday that Iran's nuclear deal would allow

it to "wreak havoc in the region."

But Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said after talks with Secretary of State John Kerry in Washington on Thursday that they had discussed ways to implement "the understandings" reached at a Camp David summit held in May between Obama & Gulf leaders.

A U.S. defense official said Carter was expected to work on advancing the Camp David initiatives during the trip, including in missile defense, cyber & maritime security. No new weapons deals were expected to be announced.

Mustafa Alani, an Iraqi security analyst with close ties to Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry, said there was "deep worry" approximately Iranian missile capabilities among Gulf Arab states, & the Iran nuclear deal had done nothing to allay it.

Bruce Riedel, director of the Brookings Institution think tank's Intelligence Project, said the United States had helped secure critical Saudi support by backing its war on Houthi fighters in Yemen.

"The Pentagon has already given Riyadh what it wants – a blank check in Yemen," Riedel said.

Washington's supply of advanced arms to Gulf Arab states is a delicate balancing act, because of its long-standing commitment to maintain Israel's regional military supremacy.

    During a June visit to Israel, General Martin Dempsey cited discussions approximately bolstering Israel's integrated

air & missile defense system, its cyber defenses & maritime

security.

The United States & Israel have moreover been quietly negotiating a new program of U.S. defense aid to Israel once the current, $3 billion a year expires in 2017. Reuters has reported that a new package of aid may see an increase over the previous 10-year deal with Israel.

But Netanyahu has sought to play down any perception his government was acquiescing to the nuclear agreement in exchange for increased defense backing from Washington.

Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli cabinet minister responsible for the Iran nuclear file, has brushed off questions approximately the kind of weaponry & military equipment Israel hoped to obtain from the U.S. following the Iran deal.

"We are very grateful for the assistance we obtain from the United States," said Steinitz. "But I think it's wrong to use the word compensation because there is no real compensation for a nuclear threat."

(Additional reporting by William Maclean in Dubai & Dan Williams in Jerusalem; editing by Stuart Grudgings)

Barack ObamaIsraelIranSaudi Arabia

Source: “Reuters”

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