US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Saudi Foreign minister in Washington. October 2021

US, GCC Countries Condemn Iranian Policies In Advance Of Nuclear Talks

11/18/2021

Author: Mardo Soghom

The United States and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have condemned Iran’s ballistic missiles program days before nuclear talks with Iran resume in Vienna.

The US and the GCC, which have a Strategic Partnership agreement, held a meeting of their working group in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. A statement by the US State Department said the two sides “affirmed the longstanding partnership between the US and the members of the GCC”, as well as “shared determination to contribute to regional security and stability” in the Middle East.

But the two sides focused on “a range of aggressive and dangerous Iranian policies, including the proliferation and direct use of advanced ballistic missiles and Unmanned Aircraft Systems.” The statement said that these weapons have been by Iran or its proxies “in hundreds of attacks against civilians and critical infrastructure in Saudi Arabia and civilian merchant seamen in international waters of the Sea of Oman, and endangered American troops combatting ISIS.”

US allies in the Persian Gulf have been long concerned about Tehran’s belligerent regional policies and its expanding military and political influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, where they maintain and support tens of thousands of proxy forces.

The joint US and GCC meeting also “agreed that Iran’s nuclear program is of grave concern, as Iran has taken steps for which it has no civilian need but that would be important to a nuclear weapons program.”

As Iran has delayed the resumption of nuclear talks held earlier this year, the Biden Administration seems eager to offer assurances to its Arab allies in the region, which could also serve as a tough message to Tehran.

The Biden team came into office aiming to distance itself from the Trump administration’s tough approach toward Iran and its very close ties with Saudi Arabia and Israel. But as its attempts to reach agreement with Tehran to revive the 2015 nuclear agreement (JCPOA) have so far failed, Washington needs to keep ties with traditional allies strong.

But the US and the GCC also appeared to be extending a carrot to Iran, urging Tehran to shift its long-held aggressive policies.

The State Department statement said the US and GCC believe, “Iran has a better alternative to these continued escalations and can contribute to a more secure and stable region.” GCC members briefed the meeting about their continued efforts to build diplomatic channels with Tehran and expressed hope that “these regional diplomatic efforts developing over time to promote peaceful ties in the region, based on a long history of economic and cultural exchanges.”

Saudi Arabia has held four rounds of talks with Iran this year, but Saudi officials have said while the meetings have been cordial and useful, they have not been substantive. The United Arab Emirates will also soon send a delegation to Iran.

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