Foreign Minister Abdullatif al-Zayani of Bahrain told me in an exclusive interview that he expects the Biden administration to consult with Bahrain and other Gulf countries before moving to a new nuclear deal with Iran.
Why it matters: Comments made during Zayani’s historic visit to Jerusalem today reflect concerns in other Gulf states, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, about Biden’s desire to revive the existing nuclear deal and potentially negotiate a new one.
Flashback: All of these countries supported President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal and launch a “maximum pressure” campaign. The Trump administration has consulted closely with Bahrain and other Gulf states on its policy toward Iran, as well as with Israel.
What he says: “The situation in the Middle East has changed in the last four years and the dynamics have changed,”
- He stressed that any new agreement with Iran must address not only Iran’s nuclear program, but also its regional behavior and its ballistic missile program.
Between the lines: Biden has said he will return to the 2015 deal if Iran aligns, but also says he will seek a new, broader deal with Iran.
- “We need to be consulted if the United States seeks such an agreement with Iran,” Zayani said, citing US partners in the region.
What next: Israeli officials tell me that they hope the normalization agreements with Bahrain and the UAE will allow the three countries to present a unified line to the Biden administration – both privately and publicly – on a new deal with Iran.
- Zayani said Bahrain is in consultations with Israel and Gulf partners on the future of Iran.
- “Every country concerned about Iran’s war must and will give its argument,” he said. “We will certainly express our views. We have a close and open dialogue with the United States, so I am sure that other regional states will do the same.” the fears are absolutely clear. “
- Zayani became the first-ever Bahraini government minister to visit Israel today, arriving this morning on a direct flight from Manama.
- White House envoy Avi Berkowitz, who was one of the architects of the agreement to normalize Bahrain and Israel, is traveling with him.
- Zayani gave his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, a formal request to open an embassy in Bahrain in Tel Aviv. He also offered Bahrain to accept Israel’s request to open an embassy in Manama.
- Ashkenazi said he believes embassies will be open by the end of the year. He will travel to Bahrain on December 4 to take part in the security dialogue in Manama, becoming the first Israeli foreign minister to visit Bahrain.
The last: Zayani also had a tripartite meeting in Jerusalem with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
What next: Zayani told me that he believed that the Biden administration would accept the process of the Abraham agreements and potentially expand it. “We know it won’t always be a smooth trip, but this train has left the station and we hope others will join,” he said.
- He also denied that there was a crisis between Bahrain and the Palestinians over the decision to normalize. He said the deal would allow Bahrain “to use our relations with Israel to advocate more effectively for the Palestinian people” and a two-state solution.