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Iran nuclear deal: Israel, Saudi media step up attack

A day after Iran's land nuclear deal with world powers, its rivals in the Middle East stepped up their criticism Wednesday saying it ignored Tehran's support for violent militias in the region.

world Updated: Jul 15, 2015 22:01 IST
Iran nuclear deal,Iran,Saudi Arabia
Iranian officials welcome Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif upon his arrival at Tehran's Mehrabad Airport on wednesday, after Iran's nuclear negotiating team struck a deal with world powers in Vienna. (AFP Photo)

A day after Iran's land nuclear deal with world powers, its rivals in the Middle East stepped up their criticism Wednesday saying it ignored Tehran's support for violent militias in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that his country has a "great and mighty" strength to defend itself. His war of words came as his political rival, Isaac Herzog, announced he would go to the US to lobby for a compensation package to insure Israel's military advantage in the region.

Herzog's trip reflects the broad opposition to the deal in Israel, where most politicians fear the deal will fail to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons while strengthening the Islamic Republic's support for Israel's staunchest enemies.

Addressing parliament, Netanyahu reiterated that Israel was not bound by the deal and said Israel would continue to oppose it.

"All the more so, we will reserve our right to defend ourselves against all of our enemies," he said. "We have strength, and it is great and mighty."

Israel's nuclear affairs minister, Yuval Steinitz, said that "Israel is like the little child that is pointing its finger and saying the king is naked."

Saudi Arabia's official reaction to the deal was a terse statement that welcomed any agreement that would ensure Iran could not develop a nuclear arsenal. But its media launched a scathing attack with cartoonists depicting the deal as an assault on Arab interests and columnists decrying the focus on Tehran's atomic plans instead of its backing for regional militias.

A cartoon in Asharq al-Awsat, a pan-Arab daily close to King Salman's branch of the ruling family, showed a trampled body marked "Middle East", with a placard saying "nuclear deal" sticking from its head.

The top-hatted and turbaned silhouettes of America's Uncle Sam and an Iranian cleric ran across the body hand in hand, portraying a widely voiced concern that Washington's quest for a deal means it has realigned with Tehran at Arab expense.

In al-Jazirah daily, columnist Jasser al-Jasser wrote an article headlined "A terrorist Iran instead of a nuclear Iran", alluding to his fear that the deal would simply allow Tehran to back Shi'ite Muslim militias and militants.

A concern that such Iranian involvement in Arab countries was feeding the sectarian conflict that allowed Islamic State to thrive was evident in a cartoon in the Saudi daily al-Watan, also owned by a branch of the ruling family.

It showed an Iranian cleric with a malignant facial expression turning the spigot on an oil pipeline marked "nuclear deal", from which dollar bills were pouring into the mouth of a masked militant labelled "terrorism".

Domestic reactions in the US clearly showed the divide between the Democratic and Republican postions on the deal. While Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton quickly embraced the deal saying it will make "the United States, Israel and our Arab partners safer", Republican presidential hopefuls vowed to overturn it.

Republican presidential contender and Wisconsin governor Scott Walker said the deal "will be remembered as one of America's worst diplomatic failures." Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who, like Walker, has vowed to rescind the agreement should he be elected president, charged that "this deal undermines our national security."

Campaigning in Iowa, former Florida governor Jeb Bush called Obama's actions "naive and wrong." "We've created, legitimised, Iran being a nuclear threshold country, and that in and of itself creates huge instability in the region," Bush said.

First Published: Jul 15, 2015 20:24 IST