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Journalist: Saudis, Gulf States 'Shocked' By Obama-Rouhani Chat

Saudi Arabian officials have sharply criticized President Obama for conducting phone conversation with Iranian President Rouhani.
By David Lev
First Publish: 9/30/2013, 4:18 PM

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Israelis are not the only ones concerned with the apparent warming of relations between Iran and the United States; Saudi Arabia has leveled sharp criticism against U.S. President Barack H. Obama for conducting a phone conversation with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

That conversation, which took place last Friday, will be taken the wrong way by Iran, Saudi officials said. Saudi journalist Abdel Rahman Rashad said that he has spoken to government officials who said that they expect the U.S. to take a much tougher stance against Iran, lest Tehran take advantage of what it sees like American “softness” to continue and even expand its nuclear program.

“If the Americans do not take the necessary steps against Iran, the states of the Middle East will have to deal with a nuclear Iran,” Rashad wrote in an op-ed in the London-based Arabic a-Sharq a-Awsat newspaper.

“The phone call between Obama and Rouhani shocked the Gulf states, Jordan, Turkey, Israel, and other countries,” he wrote.

According to the New York Times, Obama and Rouhani "agreed to accelerate talks aimed at defusing the dispute over Iran’s nuclear program and afterward expressed optimism at the prospect of a rapprochement that would transform the Middle East."

According to the Iranians, it was Obama that sought to speak to Rouhani, but Rahman said it did not matter who sought to speak to whom.

“What is important to know is what stands behind the conversation and how deep the ties are between America and Iran.”

The Suaids are very concerned about Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, fearing they will be aimed at the Sunni country by an aggressive Shi'ite competitor. At a recent meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Former Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said that Iran could threaten to attack Saudi Arabia – and thereby interfering with shipments of oil to the West – if it achieved nuclear weapons. This, he said would increase the chance of war, conventional or otherwise.

"Any threat to our interests or security will force us to use all available options to defend our interests, and national and regional security," Faisal was quoted as saying by the Al-Arabiya news channel. "The mounting escalation and persistent tensions might end up in an adventure with unpredictable consequences or in an unwanted military confrontation."

Iran has warned Western governments that it will close the strategically vital Strait of Hormuz at the mouth of the Gulf, a strategic choke point for much of the world's oil supplies, if they press ahead with sanctions against its key crude exports.

"Iran must not fuel this conflict and must not threaten us when we commit to international decisions," Faisal said. "It must safeguard the security of the Strait of Hormuz and that of the world energy supply."