Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran: will Saudi Arabia seek new friends?

19 May 2015

The US appears to be losing the trust it once enjoyed in Saudi Arabia, as a result of the nuclear deal with Iran.


Prince Turki bin Faisal, the head of the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies and ex-director of the Saudi intelligence apparatus, delivered the keynote address at the 2015 Asan Plenum in Seoul, South Korea on 29 April. Castigating US President Barack Obama for going ‘behind the backs of the traditional allies’ of the United States to negotiate a nuclear agreement with Iran, Prince Turki also made a point of referring to Riyadh’s friendship with Washington in the past tense, stating that, ‘We were America’s best friend in the Arab world for 50 years.’ It appears that, short of renouncing any agreement with Iran, the US is losing the trust it once enjoyed in Saudi Arabia.

Key points

  • Saudi Arabia has threatened to match Iran’s nuclear programme.
  • It demonstrates a marked decrease in Saudi confidence in the ability of the United States to continue to act as a security guarantor in the region.
  • This has major implications for the region and also for China, Pakistan and the US.
  • At a personal level, it leaves Obama’s legacy open to question.
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