AEOI Chief Says: US Patronizing Riyadh Upsets Power Balance

AEOI Chief Says: US Patronizing Riyadh Upsets Power BalanceAEOI Chief Says: US Patronizing Riyadh Upsets Power Balance

The head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, one of the architects of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, has warned the US to stop upsetting the regional balance of power by siding with Saudi Arabia.

Writing in the Guardian, Ali Akbar Salehi said that "lavish arms purchases" by regional actors —a reference to the Saudi purchase of $100 billion of US arms during Donald Trump's recent visit to Riyadh— would be seen as provocative in Tehran and it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to remain "indifferent".

Salehi, an MIT graduate scientist who has also served as foreign minister, was the second most senior Iranian negotiator, dealing with technical aspects, during nearly two years of talks between Tehran and six major powers that led to the final nuclear accord in Vienna in July 2015.

Although Trump has promised to "dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran", he has not so far taken any concrete steps to scrap it. Last month, two days before Iran's presidential election, his administration announced that it was continuing to waive nuclear-related sanctions under the agreement despite Washington toughening up its overall Iran policy.

***Need for Reciprocal Gestures  

The AEOI head said it was possible to rescue the engagement that helped conclude the nuclear deal if it was met with reciprocal gestures. "Often following hard-won engagement, some western nations, whether distracted by short-sighted political motivations or the lucrative inducements of regional actors, walk away and allow the whole situation to return to the status quo ante," wrote Salehi.

Salehi warned of "chaotic behavior" and "further tension and conflict" if the other side disregarded Iran's security concerns, failed to adhere to its commitments and insisted on what he called alternative facts including ideas such as the "clash of civilizations", "Sunni-Shia conflict", "Persian-Arab enmity" and the "Arab-Israeli axis against Iran".  

His article comes at a time of simmering tensions in the Middle East, where relations between Tehran and Riyadh, which are on opposite sides of many regional conflicts such as the wars in Syria and Yemen, have deteriorated.

Trump's first post-election foreign trip to Riyadh tilted the regional balance, and contributed in part to the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and its allies, who have accused the tiny emirate of funding terrorists and appeasing Iran.

Meanwhile, in Syria, Iran-backed militias and a coalition of forces led by Washington have collided a number of times in recent weeks while fighting the self-styled Islamic State terror group.

***Engagement in Jeopardy    

"Stoking Iranophobia" or failure to deliver on promises under the deal would jeopardize engagement, Salehi wrote. "We would all end up back at square one," he cautioned. "Unfortunately, as things stand at the moment in the region, reaching a new state of equilibrium might simply be beyond reach for the foreseeable future."

Salehi urged the outside world to take heed of the results of last month's Iranian presidential election and the message Iranians sent, but he said "engagement is simply not a one-way street and we cannot go it alone."

In the May 19 poll, moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who champions greater engagement with the world, won 57% of the vote, securing a stronger mandate to press ahead with his efforts to improve international relations.    


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