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US Seeks to Reassure Mideast Allies About Iran Deal

  • Pamela Dockins

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speak to reporters after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, July 16, 2015.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir speak to reporters after their meeting at the State Department in Washington, July 16, 2015.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. and its Gulf allies are committed to working together to “push back against any extremist enterprises, including the activities of Iran in the region.”

Kerry commented Thursday after he and Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir discussed a host of regional issues, including the Iran nuclear deal reached Tuesday in Vienna.

U.S. administration officials have been trying to allay concerns that the deal, which was designed to provide sanctions relief to Iran while keeping it from building a nuclear weapon, could allow Tehran to broaden its influence in the Middle East region.

The Saudi foreign minister said regional powers wanted to see a “peaceful resolution to Iran’s nuclear program.”

But he added that if Iran should try to cause “mischief” in the region, Gulf powers were committed “to confront it resolutely.”

Kerry will continue the diplomatic press for the Iran nuclear deal with an August 3 trip to the Gulf region to meet with members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council. Jubeir said the meeting would take place in Doha.

Israel remains skeptical

Kerry also discussed the nuclear deal by phone Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has been a vocal critic of it.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said that Netanyahu raised concerns he had expressed publicly, and that Kerry explained why the U.S. administration believes it is a good deal.

During a Thursday news conference with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, Netanyahu said the deal, which resulted from marathon talks between Iran and the U.S., Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany, paved the “terrorist regime’s path to a bomb.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter travels to Israel this weekend in a bid to reaffirm U.S. support for the country’s security. He will then travel to Saudi Arabia.

Regional security focus

Kerry and Jubeir also discussed ways to implement the understandings reached during a May summit at the Camp David presidential retreat, hosted by President Barack Obama.

Members of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council came to the meeting seeking assurances from the White House that the U.S. was fully committed to the region’s security.

On Thursday, the chief U.S. negotiator at the Iran nuclear talks, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman, vowed to stay focused on security matters.

“We are going to continue to have robust conversations with the United States Congress and our partners in Israel and the Gulf,” she said.

She said the deal would cut Iran’s pathways to material for nuclear weapons and ensure the “vigorous” transparency and inspections needed to verify that Iran could not pursue a nuclear bomb.

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