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Pentagon Chief: Saudis Support Nuclear Deal Despite Concerns

U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told reporters on Wednesday that Saudi Arabia supports the Iran nuclear deal despite its concerns with Iran’s malignant activities in the Middle East.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia did express “reservations” about the deal’s verification process and “so-called snapback” mechanism for re-instituting sanctions if Iran violates the terms, noted Carter during a press conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Carter spoke to reporters after he met with the Saudi monarch and the country’s minister of defense. Saudi Arabia has not commented on the meeting.

“Both the king and the minister of defense reiterated their support for the Iranian nuclear deal,” said the Pentagon chief, later adding, “The only reservations that we discussed were ones that we clearly shared, namely that we attend to verification of the agreement as its implemented and also with respect to the so-called snapback of sanctions.”

“Those are the same issues that we know will arise in the course of the implementation,” he noted.

Prior to the announcement of the nuclear deal struck earlier this month between Iran and U.S.-led world powers, Sunni Saudi Arabia, like Israel, had been an ardent critic of the Obama administration’s efforts to reach an agreement with Shiite powerhouse Iran. Saudi Arabia considers Iran its chief regional enemy.

“Both Israel and Saudi Arabia say they believe the nuclear deal will strengthen Iran by lifting economic sanctions, unlocking billions of dollars in assets that Tehran could use to support proxies opposed to Israel and the Sunni monarchy,” notes The Wall Street Journal.

“But King Salman and [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu], whose countries don’t have diplomatic relations, may not have the same appetite for conflict with the White House,” it adds.

On Thursday, Saudi Arabia Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said the nuclear deal appears to include the necessary provisions to prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic weapon.

According to Carter, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia share two primary concerns — Iran’s “malign activities” and the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). Both subjects were discussed “equally,” he added.

“The two new challenges that preoccupy both the United States and Saudi Arabia today are first of all Iran, and its malign activities in the region, and potential for aggression number one,” the defense secretary told reporters in Jeddah. “And number two, ISIL and other forms of violent extremism in the region. And we discussed both of those as well as a number of regional issues of concern to all of us: Yemen, Syria, Iraq, and so forth.”

A day after Carter spoke to reporters in Saudi Arabia, the Saudi foreign minister indicated that the nuclear deal may prevent Iran from obtaining an atomic weapon.

“Al-Jubeir says the kingdom has been reassured by Washington while consultations continue about the deal,” reports The Associated Press (AP). “He says it allows for effective inspections, including of military sites, and the possibility of snap-back sanctions.”

The Saudis are “currently in talks with the American government regarding these details, but it (the deal) generally seems to have achieved these objectives,” the foreign minister reportedly added.

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