Bahrain Demands Role In Iran Talks As Arabs And Israel Discuss Defense Alliance
Leaders of Israel and Bahrain spoke on Thursday about the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, Bahrain’s state-run news agency reported, as President Joe Biden’s administration tries to find a path to restore the 2015 agreement.
Bahraini Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, also the country’s prime minister, stressed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “the importance of the participation of regional countries in any negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file” to support “security and stability in the region,” according to the official Bahrain News Agency.
The Biden administration has indicated it aims to consult “partners” in addition to close coordination with European allies, but it is not clear to what extent it has been receptive to the opinions of Israel and the Arab states most concerned about Iran’s nuclear and regional policies.
I24News reported Thursday that Israel is in talks with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to form a defense pact, although it still has no diplomatic ties with Riyadh. The possible alliance comes in response to the “growing Iranian threat”, specifically its accelerated nuclear program and its push to gain more foothold in countries like Iraq and Syria.
The statement by Bahrain marks the first response from a Persian Gulf Arab leader to President Joe Biden’s decision and diplomatic efforts to return to nuclear negotiations with Iran. Former President Donald Trump abandoned the landmark accord in May 2018 and reimposed harsh sanctions on Iran. His withdrawal was welcomed by Gulf nations and Israel, who are most directly threatened by Iran and staunchly opposed the deal.
In Thursday’s call, the Bahraini crown prince urged that any nuclear negotiations with Iran “include broader issues,” without elaborating. The readout from Israel made no mention of Washington’s outreach to Tehran.
Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf sheikhdoms were kept out of the last round of negotiations with Iran during the Obama administration that culminated in the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, as the nuclear agreement is called. With Biden indicating before his election that he intended to return to the accords, these regional cointries demanded to be included in negotiations.
French President Emmanuel Macron has supported the idea, but Iran has been sending out feelers about separate talks with Persian Gulf Arab states. Tehran wants to keep any negotiations with the West limited to the nuclear issue, while all parties are also concerned about its ballistic missile program and its aggressive regional policies.
With reporting by AP