Iran, Saudi leaders talk after $60b. arms deal advances

King Abdullah, Ahmadinejad discuss bilateral cooperation, developments in Middle East after US approves fighter jet sale to Riyadh.

By JPOST.COM STAFFAND ASSOCIATED PRESS
October 21, 2010 13:00
2 minute read.
saudi arabia

Saudi King Abdullah. (photo credit: Associated Press)

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Saudi King Abdullah conducted their second telephone conversation regarding important developments in the Middle East region within two week, AFP cited from an IRNA report on Thursday.

"In this telephone call, the heads of the two states discussed boosting bilateral cooperation, as well as recent developments in the region and in the international scene," AFP quoted from the IRNA report.

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Ahmadinejad and Abdullah first conversation took place on October 12, before the Iranian leader went to Lebanon on a saber-rattling trip to the nation's southern border with Israel.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are widely believed to have supported different candidates for Iraq's new prime minister, with Saudi Arabia backing  Shi'ite former Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi in the elections held in March.

According to AFP, current Shi'ite prime minister Nuri al-Maliki is viewed by Riyadh as being too close to Teheran. On Monday, Maliki visted Teheran where he urged his hosts to assist in rebuilding a war-battered Iraq.

Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef bin Abdul Aziz called for a quick resolution of the stalemate in Iraq between the two main Shi'ite parties in a regional conference held in Bahrain last month according to AFP.

"We are closely following the situation in Iraq and we clearly see gross interference in its internal affairs," Prince Nayef was quoted as saying without further elaboration.

The phone conversation between the two Middle Eastern leaders came around the same time as Washington's announcement Wednesday of its intention to sell a large package of weaponry to its cornerstone Arab ally, Saudi Arabia. The move was seen by many as a response to Iranian saber-rattling in August, when Ahmadinejad unveiled new developments in Teheran's arsenal, including a drone named the "ambassador of death." The Obama administration notified Congress of plans to sell as many as 84 new F-15 fighter jets, helicopters and other gear with an estimated $60 billion price tag.

The arms deal has been seen as a way to reinforce the Gulf as the Pentagon's front-line military network against Iran even as the US sandwiches the Islamic republic with troops and bases in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a sign of shifting Israeli strategic policy, Jerusalem did not object to the weapons sale to the Saudi government, perhaps influenced by its own deal to receivedthe US the F-35 Joint Strike stealth fighters from the US as a reassurance against an Iranian attack.

"This equipment is primarily to give (Israel) a better feeling facing the Iranian threat. It is not related to Israeli-Arab relations," said  Efraim Inbar director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar Ilan University.  "Ironically, in the current situation, Saudi Arabia is in the same strategic boat as Israel is in facing the Iranian threat."


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