US-Middle East relations
May 22, 2017
A Presidential election was held in Iran on Friday. With President Hassan Rouhani reelected by a large margin, the focus is on how it will affect US relations with the Middle East.
Rouhani gave a televised address on Saturday after defeating his conservative rival Ebrahim Raisi in Friday's election.
"Iranian people chose the path of interaction with the world," he said.
However, Rouhani noted he will respond if the US threatens Iran.
"Iran is not ready to accept humiliation and threat," he said.
The election outcome shows voters are in favor of Rouhani's moderate diplomatic policy. It led to relief from international economic sanctions in return for curbs on the country's nuclear program.
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump visited regional ally Saudi Arabia for his first overseas trip since taking office.
The visit was intended to rebuild ties that strained during the Obama administration.
Trump was greeted at Riyadh airport on Saturday morning by King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The King did not meet former US President Barack Obama at the airport when he visited in April last year.
Following the 2015 agreement on Iran's nuclear programs, the Obama administration lifted sanctions on Tehran in 2016. "We've now cut off every single path that Iran could have used to build a bomb," Obama announced at the time.
US-Iran relations had reached a major breakthrough, but the prospect of growing Iranian influence in the region unsettled many, including Saudi Arabia, a longtime US ally.
Trump selected Saudi Arabia as his first destination in a move to rebuild bilateral ties which became strained during Obama's presidency.
Trump also attended a summit with leaders of the 6-nation Gulf Cooperation Council on Sunday. He gave a speech to the heads of more than 50 Islamic countries saying he is prepared to work with them to deal with Iran.
"Until the Iranian regime is willing to be a partner for peace, all nations of conscience must work together to isolate Iran, deny it funding for terrorism," he said.
Trump also called on the Islamic world to renew it's fight to drive out extremists. He said America is prepared to stand with them but the region cannot wait for American power to crush the enemy.
NHK correspondent Hideki Nakayama joins the program from Riyadh.
Beppu: Hideki, how big is the contrast compared to the situation with former President Obama?
Nakayama: It seems to be very different from last year when Obama visited. The Saudis extended a red carpet welcome to President Trump. The main streets of the capital were adorned with US flags and numerous bulletin boards with the slogan, “Together We Prevail” with photos of King Salman and Trump.
As we saw in the VTR, The King greeted Trump at the airport and escorted him to his hotel 30 kilometers away and presented a medal which is the highest civilian honor in the Kingdom.
This is all a showing of the Saudi’s strong support to Trump after the ties reached a low point during the Obama Administration, which reached out to Iran with the signing of the Nuclear Accord.
As this move was considered a major betrayal, Saudis welcomed President Trump’s hardline stance on Iran which he highlighted in his speech at the Summit with more than 50 Arab and Islamic countries. The Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, Adel al-Jubeir, in a press conference hailed the visit as a historic turning point.
Signing of arms deals worth $109 billion was announced coinciding with Trump’s visit, including the supplying of THAAD missile defense systems and upgrading of Saudi military capabilities, symbolizing the commitment by the Trump Administration to the Saudis and US allies in the region.
Saudi Arabia is surely now relieved that the visit has given an impression of a favorable shift in the US policy in the Middle East, one that takes a stronger stance against its archrival Iran.
Newsroom Tokyo anchor Sho Beppu is joined by Koichiro Tanaka of the Institute of Energy Economics in the studio. Tanaka is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs. Watch the video for his analysis.