Israel, Gulf Arab states share concerns over Iranian nuclear program

The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Among the alliances of convenience in the Middle East, one is so unusual that the partners can barely hint about it publicly: Israel and the Gulf Arab states’ shared fears over Iran’s nuclear program.

While their deeper disputes on the Palestinians block any strategic breakthroughs, the recent warnings from Israel and the West about military options against Iran invariably draw in the Gulf and its rare meeting of minds with Jerusalem.

The Gulf states — a cornerstone for U.S. diplomatic and military pressure on Iran — are indispensable parts of any effort to confront Tehran’s nuclear ambitions. And even Israel, which has no direct diplomatic outreach to the Gulf, is likely brought into the Gulf-centric policymaking with U.S. envoys acting as go-betweens, experts say.

“I would be surprised if there is no knowledge about the Saudi positions (in Israel) or knowledge in Saudi of the Israeli positions,” said David Menashri, director of the Center for Iranian Studies at Tel Aviv University.

It’s part of a complicated mix of mutual worries and divergent risks — the Gulf, unlike Israel, has critical commercial and diplomatic ties with Iran — that puts Washington in the middle as the common ally and chief Western architect of pressure tactics on Iran.

The next moves are expected after the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency releases an intelligence report Tuesday to its 35 board members.

Early leaks from diplomats suggest the document will indicate Iran has made computer models of a nuclear warhead and conducted other weapons-related work, which would strongly reinforce suspicions that Iran is working toward atomic weapons. Iran denies it seeks to develop nuclear arms and claims its program, including uranium enrichment labs, is only for energy and research.

In response to the reports last week, Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi accused the International Atomic Energy Agency of giving in to U.S. pressure to level the accusations, which he said were based on fabricated intelligence.

“Iran has already responded to the alleged studies in 117 pages. We’ve said time and again that these are forgeries similar to faked notes,” Salehi told reporters in Tehran.