By Hannah Allam & Jonathan Landay
November 8, 2013
WASHINGTON — An emerging deal that would curtail Iran’s nuclear program and expand inspections in exchange for relief from some economic sanctions will upset U.S. allies Israel and Saudi Arabia but is likely to lessen the chance of a conflict or a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, foreign policy analysts said Friday.
Nonproliferation experts who monitor Iran’s nuclear program said they see the deal generating mostly positive results for U.S. interests in the region. Under the deal, they said, Western powers would get unprecedented access to Tehran’s program, regional foes of Iran’s would be less likely to pursue their own nuclear programs, and the threat of an Israeli – or U.S. – military strike on Iranian nuclear facilities that could trigger a war would dissipate.
While Iran’s archenemies Israel and Saudi Arabia might grumble about the symbolism of the move – namely, that a broader detente between the United States and Shiite Muslim Iran could shift the balance of regional power away from Sunni Muslim powers – such a deal at least would reduce the chance that the nuclear standoff would explode into military action, these analysts said.
Laicie Heeley, director of Middle East and defense policy at the Washington-based Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said that the battle over regional supremacy isn’t as important to Saudi Arabia as the greater fear of an Iranian nuclear bomb.
“You could say that Saudi Arabia is concerned about stronger ties (between Iran and the West) but, ultimately, their real concern is an Iranian nuclear weapon, and this deal stops that,” Heeley said.
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