Saudis Panic Over Trump’s Talk of Discussions w/Iranian President Rouhani

A younger brother of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is in Washington this week, with President Donald Trump’s evolving policy toward Iran and Yemen expected to be on the agenda for talks with the administration.

Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman’s visit comes days after Trump signaled new openness to potential talks with Saudi Arabia’s chief regional rival, Iran, and a report that the U.S. is looking to enter talks with Iran-backed Houthi rebels in the festering war in Yemen.

The Saudi Press Agency said Prince Khalid “will meet a number of officials to discuss bilateral relations and issues of common concern that support the security and stability of the region,” without providing specifics on meetings planned with administration officials.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo will meet with the prince on Wednesday afternoon, according to the State Department.

While the trip may have been planned well in advance, analysts said there’s little doubt about what the agenda will be now.

“Behind closed doors, there will be concern over Trump’s strategy of potentially meeting with Rouhani and the way forward,” said Ayham Kamel, head of Middle East and North Africa research at the Eurasia Group, referring to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. “There is going to be a lot of questions about where U.S. policy is on that level.”

Speaking at the conclusion of the Group of Seven summit in France on Monday, Trump said he was willing to meet Rouhani under the right conditions, though he gave few details. While Rouhani pushed back, saying he wasn’t interesting in a photo-op with Trump, the American president’s offer was reminiscent of his early diplomacy with North Korea, which has resulted in three meetings with Kim Jong Un.

A Rouhani-Trump meeting would break with more than four decades of U.S. policy toward the Islamic Republic, following the country’s 1978 revolution and subsequent U.S. hostage crisis. It would also frustrate key American allies in the Middle East, including both Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Citing sources it didn’t identify, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the U.S. administration is also preparing to initiate direct talks with Yemen’s Houthis, who have been targeted by a Saudi-led coalition that has shown signs of fraying. The Saudi intervention, an early move by Prince Mohammed, has pitted the Arab world’s wealthiest nation against its poorest and generated widespread charges of human rights abuses.

“I have no doubt that the Saudis are frustrated” about U.S. signals regarding Mideast policy, Ibrahim Fraihat, a conflict resolution professor with the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, said in response to questions […]

 

via Saudis Panic Over Trump’s Talk of Discussions w/Iranian President Rouhani

2 thoughts on “Saudis Panic Over Trump’s Talk of Discussions w/Iranian President Rouhani

  1. The position of the Iranians is “lift all sanctions and the talks begin”… The current JCPOA specifies Iranian inability to make a nuclear weapon until 2025, so – seeing Iranians have zero intention of building a nuke, and in fact have the non-production of weapons of mass destruction as an essential tenet of their national identity – Iranians should have no problem agreeing to changing the JCPOA 2025 date to 2035, 2045, or 2075.

    Who knows what Trump, Netanyahu and co. want, as the extent of “specific demands” only reaches the shallow “worst deal ever” indecipherable vagueness zone. If correct, the date of 2025 is the sticking point for the Trump administration, and Iran could throw the ball into Trump’s court, (rightfully) embarrassing him in the process, by suggesting the simple changing of 2025 in the agreement to a new date.

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  2. Excellent analysis, Jerry. My sense is the original goal was to try to force Iran to withhold support from the Assad government. Now that that war is practically over I suspect it’s a mute point.

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