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Saudis claim diplomatic victory on Iran

The kingdom says Trump's decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal vindicates its long-standing regional strategy

In a banner article on its front page on Friday, the daily Al-Riyadh newspaper, which reflects the thinking of the royal court, praised the US president for taking his country out of the Iran accord—or what it called "the flawed nuclear deal". The article, written by the paper's political editor, went on to describe the White House decision as "a victory for Saudi diplomacy". The kingdom, the writer continued, had exposed "the major drawbacks to the agreement".

Furthermore, Saudi diplomacy had succeeded, while "diplomatic efforts by France, Germany and the United Kingdom to win Trump over had failed". During a recent visit to France, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said the Iran nuclear deal amounted to an act of appeasement similar to Britain's 1938 Munich agreement with Germany.

Saudi Arabia has also been critical of the fact that the nuclear accord makes no mention of Iran's ballistic missile programme. The rebel Houthi movement in Yemen has fired a number of missiles towards targets inside Saudi Arabia. The kingdom accuses Iran of supplying the rockets.

Saudi satisfaction at the latest diplomatic moves over Iran needs to be tempered by the fact that its long-standing antagonism towards Tehran and its regional role in Iraq, Syria and Yemen will now be more deeply entrenched than before.

The Yemeni people will be the biggest losers from this turn of events. The UN, backed by the UK and a number of other countries, has been trying to broker Yemeni peace talks. But for these to succeed the diplomatic process would need at least the implicit support of Riyadh and Tehran. Neither is likely to be in the mood to talk right now. Indeed, it will be surprising if more ballistic missiles don't find their way into Yemen for launching across the northern border.

Saudi Arabia is also well aware that Israel is the other Middle Eastern country boasting of diplomatic success on Iran. It's no secret that the two states have similar views on the Iranian leadership and the country's nuclear sector-and are similarly supportive of Trump's unequivocal distrust of Tehran.

But expect Saudi Arabia to take a different stance on Trump next week when the US moves its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. King Salman has already publicly criticised the decision and more hostile words directed to the White House are likely in the coming days.

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