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Arab states denounce Iran nuclear deal

BAGHDAD — The Obama administration expects the Iranian nuclear deal announced Tuesday to usher in an era of enhanced security in the Middle East. But it has been greeted with deep skepticism by some Arab nations worried it may do the opposite: allow Iran to fund proxy wars and extend its regional influence.

Saudi Arabia, Iran's chief adversary in the region, has been one of the strongest critics of a deal that offers a gradual lifting of international sanctions in return for curbs on Tehran's nuclear program.

One Saudi diplomat described the agreement as ''extremely dangerous'' and said it would give a green light to his own government to start a nuclear energy program.


Meanwhile, Israeli leaders across the political spectrum condemned the pact in stark apocalyptic language, calling it a historic mistake that frees Iran to sponsor global terror while assembling the information and materials to build a nuclear weapon.

''Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons,'' said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday. ''Many of the restrictions that were supposed to prevent it from getting there will be lifted.''

With the lifting of economic sanctions, Netanyahu warned, ''Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror.''

Netanyahu's hard-line coalition partner, education minister Naftali Bennett said, ''Today a terrorist nuclear superpower is born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history.''

Netanyahu's fellow Likud member, Science Minister Danny Danon, said the Iran pact ''is like providing a pyromaniac with matches.''

Many Israeli leaders view a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to their state.

Israeli social media accounts were filled with images of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who pushed a policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler and the Nazis on the eve of World War II.


Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders blasted the deal even as negotiators in Vienna were still making the announcement and providing the first details of the deal.

''Israel will defend itself,'' Bennett warned, vowing that military action is still an option for the Jewish state, which feels itself in the crosshairs from a belligerent enemy, where last week protesters in Tehran were chanting ''Death to Israel!''

Three years ago, Israelis were debating at the highest levels whether it might be necessary for Israel or the United States, or both countries, to launch aerial strikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

Even as Israel reasserts its rights to act independently and hit Iran if threatened, a unilateral Israeli strike is not more likely today, Israeli defense analysts say, because the United States is committed to making the Iran pact work and Israel is not likely to act alone.

The Arabs fear that removing the sanctions could produce a flood of cash and embolden Shi'ite Iran to seek a stronger hand in the region, where it has battled Sunni Saudi Arabia and its allies for influence.

Syria, a key ally of Iran, quickly expressed its support for the deal. In comments published by the official Syrian news agency SANA, President Bashar Assad called the deal a ''great victory.'' The Syrian leader described the international sanctions placed on Iran as ''unfair.''

In Iraq, which has a Shi'ite majority, officials have welcomed the prospect of a deal. But Sunnis fear the accord will mean they are further marginalized.