JEDDAH: Saudi Arabias leaders sought assurances on Wednesday that the United States stands firmly behind them against Iranian interference in the Middle East, during a visit by US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter.
Carter arrived as part of a Middle East tour trying to allay the concerns of US allies that Washington would abandon its traditional allies despite an agreement reached this month between Tehran and six major powers led by the US.
Sunni-ruled Gulf states are wary of the overtures to Tehran by Washington, their strong military backer.
Riyadh and its neighbours believe the deal will only embolden their regional rival, whom they perceive as major threat due to its rising clout specially in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia and Israel are on the same page with their concerns about the Irans growing clout, a Western diplomatic source said.
They are particularly wary about the Vienna deal that would see Irans oil exports gradually resume and billions of dollars in frozen assets unblocked.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who Carter met on Tuesday, has voiced fears the nuclear deal will help fund Iranian aggression. Israel is the only country in the region that possesses nuclear weapons but Arabs apparently have had no problem with it.
On Iran deal however the Saudis think its a mistake, although they dont say it as loud and as publicly as the Israelis.
A diplomatic source said Riyadh would not hesitate if it feels Tehran is violating the international agreement and pursuing an atomic weapon.
It will be very quick and very easy for Saudi Arabia to get a nuclear capability, the source said, though other analysts have disputed how fast the kingdom could go nuclear.
Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last week warned Iran not to use the economic benefits of the nuclear agreement to fund adventures in the region.
If it does, were committed to confront it resolutely, said Jubeir, whose country is the worlds biggest oil exporter.
In June, France and Saudi Arabia announced a feasibility study for building two nuclear reactors in the kingdom.
Riyadh is also building alliances beyond its ties with Washington in order to counter Tehran, under a more assertive foreign policy adopted since King Salman acceded to the throne in January.
Two months later the kingdom organised an Arab coalition to conduct air strikes against Iran-backed Ansarullah fighters seizing territory in neighbouring Yemen.
The US has provided aerial refuelling, intelligence and other assistance to that Saudia-led alliance.
Carter is trying to respond to regional concerns about Iran by proposing intensified military cooperation with its long-time allies.
With the Saudis, there will be talk of training special forces, cyber security, anti-missile defence and other issues, a US defence official said.
Carter also met Salman, followed by a meeting with his powerful son Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is defence minister and second-in-line to the throne.
The US defence secretary is to return mid-afternoon to Jordan, another key US ally involved in toppling Iran backed regime in Damascus.
On Tuesday, he told coalition military personnel at a Jordanian air base that the US and Israel had a common commitment to countering Iranian malign influence in the region. Agencies
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