The Arab countries are still extremely anxious about the possibility that the Biden administration will return to the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA -- signed in 2015 between Tehran and several world powers, including the US -- promises Iran's regime, after a short time, the ability to possess as many nuclear weapons as it likes, the missiles to deliver them, and no constraints on its terrorism or "revolutionary" expansionism.
In 2018, then US President Donald J. Trump withdrew from the JCPOA after realizing that it failed to curtail Iran's nuclear weapons program, missile program or regional aggression and terrorism.
In the past year, reports about the possibility that the Biden administration was working to revive the Iran nuclear deal has sparked fear among many Arabs and Muslims, who have criticized the US for embarking on a policy of appeasement towards the regime of the mullahs in Tehran.
In the past few months, there have been a few intimations that the prospects of reviving the nuclear deal were slim. "The nuclear talks are "not our focus right now," US negotiator Robert Malley said in the aftermath of the widespread anti-regime protests in Iran and the brutal crackdown on protesters, including the execution of some of the demonstrators, including a dual-national Englishman. The Arabs did not fail to notice the tell-tale "right now."
That, plus the appearance of lack of progress in the talks between the US and the major powers and Iran to renew the deal -- as well as reports of a recent meeting between Malley and Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Saeed Iravani -- have failed to reassure many Arabs, especially those facing direct threats from the mullahs and their proxies in the Middle East. Iran's proxies include Hamas; the Palestinian Islamic Jihad; Hezbollah, especially in Lebanon and the Houthi militia in Yemen.
The Arabs are not only disturbed about Iran's efforts to obtain nuclear weapons, but also its ongoing meddling in the internal affairs of Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq.
In a sign reflecting the Arab concern over the Biden administration's perceived lenient policy towards the mullahs and their nuclear ambitions, Egypt and Saudi Arabia announced in mid-January that they have:
"agreed on the need for Iran to fully respect its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in a way that prevents it from acquiring nuclear weapons and... agreed to support Arab efforts to urge Iran to adhere to international principles of non-interference in the affairs of Arab countries, preserve the principles of good neighborliness, and spare the region all destabilizing activities, including support for armed militias, as well as threatening maritime navigation and international trade lines."
Referring to Iran and its terrorist militias, Egypt and Saudi Arabia said:
"The two sides stressed the rejection of any attempts by regional parties to interfere in the internal affairs of Arab countries or threaten their stability and undermine the interests of their peoples, whether through the tools of ethnic and sectarian incitement, or the tools of terrorism and terrorist groups, or through expansionist visions that do not respect the sovereignty of states."
Commenting on the Egyptian-Saudi announcement, Saudi journalist Tariq Al-Homayed, a former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat pointed out the significance of the statement, issued after a meeting of the Follow-Up and Political Consultation Committee headed by Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his Egyptian counterpart, Sameh Shoukry.
"This is a clear and precise statement. It answers several points that have been obscured by what I call 'news- washing,' be it about relations with Iran, its spheres of influence, or even its occupation of the region, from Syria to Lebanon and from Iraq to Yemen."
Al-Homayed noted that the mullahs have repeatedly expressed a desire over the past few months to improve their relations with Saudi Arabia.
"No one wants absolute enmity with Iran. This does not mean that there ought to be negotiations that grant the Mullah regime the legitimacy it has lost at home. Instead, we need negotiations on specific issues that allow us to eliminate security risks, support stability and bring an end to Iran's interference in Arab affairs. Thus, the Saudi-Egyptian statement is important and serves as a reminder of the positions of Riyadh and Cairo on urgent issues, and an indication of the coordination required for the region and its stability."
The Egyptian-Saudi stance was not the first Arab expression of mistrust over Iran's disastrous actions and policies.
In September 2022, the foreign ministers Arab League countries condemned Iran's interference in Arab states' internal affairs and considered such acts a violation of international law and the principle of good-neighborhood and sovereignty.
The ministers demanded that Iran halt its "provocative acts, which undermine confidence building measures and threaten security and stability in the region. They demanded that Iran abstain from supporting and funding of militias and armed parties in the Arab countries."
The Arab ministers, in addition, condemned the continued attacks using Iranian-made drones and missiles against Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, launched from Yemeni territory by the Iran-backed Houthis militia, dubbing them a "flagrant aggression and a threat to the Arab national security."
The ministers called on Iran to withdraw its militias and armed elements from all Arab states and underlined the need to monitor Iranian actions and attempts to undermine security and stability in the Middle East. They further called for intensifying diplomatic efforts by the Arab countries to highlight the practices of the Iranian regime and its support for violence, sectarianism and terrorism and its threat to regional and international security."
In a message to the Biden administration, the Arab ministers stressed the importance of taking into consideration the concerns of the Arab countries towards the attempts to revive the nuclear deal with Iran:
"Any agreement with Iran should include stronger provisions related to its ballistic missile program and explosive drones, which are provided to terrorist militias."
They also urged the international community to extend the arms embargo on Iran and warned that lifting the embargo will lead to further "ruin and destruction."
Yet it would be naïve, if not downright foolish, to think that the mullahs in Tehran would be afraid or deterred by Arab statements and warnings. In fact, shortly after Egypt and Saudi Arabia issued their warning about Iran, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian traveled to Lebanon, where he met with Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ziyad Al-Nakhalah, as well as senior Lebanese government officials.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran will continue supporting the Islamic Resistance in Lebanon and Palestine," Amir-Abdollahian said during the visit.
The Iranian foreign minister 's Beirut visit and his statement are a direct response to the Egyptian-Saudi warning about Tehran. The mullahs are telling the Arabs that they can continue barking to their hearts' content, but Iran will do whatever it wants in their countries. The mullahs are making clear their intention to continue meddling in the internal affairs of the Arab countries, notwithstanding the opinions of the Arabs.
When the Iranian foreign minister says his country will continue supporting the "resistance" in Lebanon, he means that Tehran will continue to provide weapons and money to Hezbollah, the terrorist organization that effectively controls Lebanon and has turned the country into a state of anarchy and lawlessness.
When he talks about Iranian support for the "resistance in Palestine," the minister means his country will continue to support the terrorism of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad against Israel. The two terror groups, based in the Gaza Strip, are responsible for thousands of terror attacks against Israel. Like Hezbollah, the Palestinian groups are largely responsible for the misery of the people living under their rule.
"Everything about the Iranian leadership changes with the times, but it does not affect the mentality in which it has been ruling since 1979," wrote Syrian journalist Baha' Al-Awwam.
"The logic of the 'Islamic Revolution' calls for confronting the people with iron and fire. As for its neighbors, logic states that Iran must deal with them through intrigues and threats. In international politics, there is nothing better than having a nuclear weapon to blackmail the world. What did the internal politics of the 'Islamic Revolution' produce? The answer is a miserable people who feel injustice, and a leadership that is afraid, day and night, of a rebellion here and a protest there. As for foreign policy, 'Khomeinism' produced a country that lives in an economic blockade for decades and that no longer knows a language other than weapons for dialogue with its neighbors and countries of the world."
Al-Awwam went on to note that during the past four decades the Iranian leadership has never distinguished between war and peace, not even in 2015 when it signed the nuclear deal with the major powers.
"That agreement was an American reward for Tehran for years of aggressive behavior in the region, in exchange for it stopping building the nuclear bomb for a period of time. During the era of former US President Barack Obama, the US wanted to unleash the hand of political Islam in the region, so it supported the 'sons of Khomeini' and 'the grandchildren of [Muslim Brotherhood founder] Hassan al-Banna.'"
In light of the continued warnings by the Arabs, it remains to be seen whether the Biden administration and other Western parties will wake up to the fact that Iran's mullahs cannot be trusted. The Arabs are telling the West that they should not trust the mullahs because they continue to threaten peace and stability in the Middle East while pretending that Tehran seeks peace with the Arab countries.
It seems as though the Obama and Biden administrations are ultimately willing to agree to almost anything the mullahs want and throw in a trillion dollars if the mullahs just please do not use their nuclear weapons -- as Obama candidly put it in 2015 -- "on my watch."
Khaled Abu Toameh is an award-winning journalist based in Jerusalem.