Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi Arabian billionaire investor who owns stakes in Apple and Twitter, has hit out at Barack Obama’s willingness to accept a deal with Iran over its nuclear programme, labelling the US president as being “in a rush” and “wounded”.
Speaking to Bloomberg prior to Sunday morning’s announcement that the Islamic Republic had come to an agreement with six world powers following talks in Geneva, Alwaleed argued that the US should have kept up economic sanctions, rather than move towards any relief.
“There’s no confidence in the Obama administration doing the right thing with Iran,” Alwaleed told the US news service. “We’re really concerned – Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Middle East countries, about this.”
Alwaleed, who took the unusual step of referring to Israel as part of a collective alongside Arab countries, suggested that Obama had encouraged a deal in a bid to bolster his reputation domestically. “Obama is in so much of a rush to have a deal with Iran,” he continued. “He wants anything. He’s so wounded. It’s very scary. Look, the 2014 elections are going to begin. Within two months they’re going to start campaigning. Thirty-nine members of his own party in the House have already moved away from him on Obamacare. That’s scary for him.”
Aimed at ending the standoff over Iran’s disputed uranium enrichment programme, the deal between Iran and the US, France, Germany, the UK, China and Russia was struck after four days of negotiations.
The talks were held in the hope of easing decades’ worth of tensions that have heated up in the years since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution. In return for suspending some of its most sensitive nuclear work, Iran will receive some relief from US-imposed sanctions and access to billions of foreign exchange.
Earlier this month a BBC investigation claimed that Saudi had reached a pact with Pakistan for the procurement of its own nuclear warheads if Iran was successful in weaponising its own programme.
Ruling authorities in Saudi Arabia have watched in disbelief as relations between the US and Iran have thawed considerably since new president Hassan Rouhani came into the power this year.
Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, has even gone so far as to publicly state that the kingdom could make a “major shift” away from the US in protest over America’s overtures towards Iran and its 11th hour decision not to bomb Syria.
Sunni Muslim-majority Saudi and predominantly Shi’a Iran, the two dominant regional powers, have a long-held animosity, in which the ongoing Syrian civil war has become a proxy. Saudi and other Gulf states have pushed for the removal of Bashar Al Assad, while Iran is a staunch supporter of the embattled president, whose Alawite sect is as an off-shoot of Shi’a Islam.
Alwaleed, whose public statements are often interpreted as a barometer for the thoughts of Saudi’s rulers, was not the only one displeased at the outcome of the Geneva talks. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to condemn the deal, describing it as an “unbelievable Christmas present” for Iran.