GCC perceptions of US withdrawal from the JCPOA


The Secretary-General of the GCC, Dr. Abdul Latif Zayani, welcomed the decision made by US President Donald Trump regarding the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Iran, re-imposition of sanctions and the imposition of more severe sanctions. “It is a brave decision that expresses his desire for a nuclear-free Middle East and to respond to Iran’s hostile policies in the region,” he said.

Most GCC member states also hailed the US decision to review and reshape the deal to face down the Iranian threat to regional security. In fact, GCC member states initially welcomed the Iranian deal as they believe that the prevalence of stability and peace in the Gulf region ensures stability in the Middle East and in the world as a whole. They also believe that tackling the nuclear issue through Tehran’s response to the concerns of the international community and subjecting its nuclear program to monitoring and inspection will close a chapter of tension and concern so as to prevent a regional war between Iran and the West by targeting Iranian nuclear sites. Such a war would lead the whole region into chaos and undermine its security, stability and development.

Due to geographical factors, no GCC member state would be spared from the consequences of targeting Iranian nuclear sites. The Bushehr reactor, for example, is located near the east coast of the Gulf near Kuwait, so any leakage of radioactive components could harm the coastal areas of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE, and Musandam in Oman. Additionally, Iran’s possession of a nuclear weapon would affect the balance of power and create an arms race in the region.

In spite of the logical justifications of the GCC’s positive reaction to the US stance, there were doubts about how this deal was concluded in the first place. The deal neither explicitly limits Iran’s ambitions and threats to its regional neighbors nor does it bind Iran to permanently give up the development of its nuclear program. The GCC member states have openly and clearly expressed this on various occasions.

The aftermath of the Iranian deal and its subsequent rapid developments underscored the GCC member states’ doubts and concerns regarding the inefficiency of the deal to curb Iranian threats. As soon as the deal was concluded, the threat of Iranian ballistic missile testing emerged in clear violation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 on the Iranian nuclear deal and ballistic missile testing. Then and there, Iran supplied a large number of ballistic missiles to a non-state terrorist group (Houthi militias) in another serious violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216. In turn, Houthi militias fired those missiles on civilians in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as in their repeated raids on international shipping corridors. Moreover, the waiver of sanctions allowed Iran to take advantage of its economic returns to promote its activities to destabilize the region by further expanding its network of Shiite agents in areas of conflict, in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and the GCC. Moreover, Iran never stopped developing its nuclear capabilities even after the nuclear deal, which failed to halt the Iranian nuclear program. Documents obtained by Israel from inside Iran and seen by the entire world show that Iran continues developing nuclear weapons and that it has had secret nuclear sites for years.

In short, the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal came in favor of the stability of the region. The deal needs to be reviewed and reshaped in a way that comprehensively addresses all aspects of the Iranian issue. It has to tackle the threats that Iran poses to regional security. Intensified cooperative efforts are required by the United States and its allies in the region, as well as by the international community, to develop a comprehensive and clear plan of action that addresses all the legitimate concerns of the countries of the region regarding the Iranian threat. An international coalition would eliminate Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region just as it eliminated the existence of Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS).

Dr. Ibrahim Al-Othaimin is a Middle East affairs specialist and security analyst based in Riyadh. He can be contacted at Ibrahim.othaimin@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Alothaimin