Since the announcement of the interim agreement in Geneva on Iran’s nuclear program, the deal’s sharpest critics have included Israel and Saudi Arabia. Some have suggested that an overlap of interests in opposing Iran’s rehabilitation into the international community portends a closer relationship between these two enemies. In fact, Israel and Saudi Arabia have a long history of tacit and covert cooperation against mutual foes, but the kingdom has no interest in anything more. Indeed, it is likely to use any Iran deal to try to curb Israel’s own nuclear program.
Led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel has sharply and publicly denounced the Geneva deal. The Saudis have characteristically been more restrained. The kingdom has publicly welcomed the agreement as a good first step if it works, while the government-controlled media has been more critical. Privately, Saudi officials have been very critical of any deal with Iran that ends sanctions. Saudi officials have been particularly angry to learn of back-channel US-Iranian contacts after the fact. One official has said that the administration of US President Barack Obama lied to Saudi Arabia. Neither Jerusalem nor Riyadh wants Iran rehabilitated into the international community; both prefer it remain isolated. Some sources have reported that the Saudis provided Israel with a tip that US diplomats had opened the secret back channel to Iran in Oman earlier this year.
But a mutual aversion to Iran and annoyance with the United States probably does not augur a closer relationship between the Jewish state and the kingdom. The Israelis would welcome one, but the Saudis don’t trust Israel. They support Palestinian rights and want to see Israel’s nuclear program eliminated.