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US envoy Friedman: If Biden wins, it will be bad for Israel and Gulf on Iran

American ambassador tells Emirati website that Democrat nominee would undermine efforts of Trump administration to reverse nuclear deal

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the Kohelet Forum Conference at the Begin Heritage Center, in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman speaks during the Kohelet Forum Conference at the Begin Heritage Center, in Jerusalem, on January 8, 2020. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman on Sunday told a United Arab Emirates news site that a Joe Biden win in next month’s US elections would see American policy on Iran shift in a way that would be damaging to Israel and the Gulf states.

Friedman told al-Ain that Iran was the “most consequential issue of the election.”

“As you know, Joe Biden was part of the Obama administration that negotiated and implemented the Iran deal, something that President Trump — and I share his view — thinks was the worst international deal the US has ever entered into,” Friedman said in an excerpt from the interview posted to Twitter.

“It created a path for Iran to get a nuclear weapon,” he said.

In May 2018, US President Donald Trump withdrew from the landmark deal, which gave Iran relief from sanctions in return for UN-verified guarantees that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.

The Trump administration and Israel had expressed concern that the deal emboldened Iran, increased its support for terror, and had a sunset clause that would ultimately allow Iran the bomb.

Since breaking from the accord, the United States has slapped wave after wave of sanctions on Iran that have crippled its economy.

“We are in a very good place in terms of the sanctions we have imposed upon Iran, and we think if we continue down this path, Iran will have no choice but to end its malign activity,” Friedman said.

“We worked really hard to get Iran, I think, to a much better place. I would hate to think a new administration would undermine that but, regrettably, if Biden wins, I think they might,” he added.

In a separate quote to al-Ain, cited by the Axios news site, Friedman warned that a shift in Iran policy would also affect the Gulf countries.

“If Biden wins, we will see a policy shift that in my personal opinion will be wrong and will be bad for the region, including for Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar and Kuwait,” he said.

Israel’s increasingly close relations with the Gulf countries, including normalization deals signed last month with the UAE and Bahrain, stem from a mutual concern over Iran.

In retaliation for the US pulling out of the deal, since May 2019 Iran has gradually reduced its commitments to the 2015 nuclear treaty, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

Tehran says its response has been in line with the JCPOA, but Washington says it has violated the agreement, and sought a “snapback” of UN sanctions on Iran at the Security Council.

The US insisted it was still a “participant” in the JCPOA despite its pullout, but that was rejected by virtually every other member of the Security Council

Tensions between Iran and the US have escalated since the Trump administration withdrew from the nuclear deal. A year ago, the US sent thousands more troops, long-range bombers and an aircraft carrier to the Middle East in response to what it called a growing threat of Iranian attacks on US interests in the region.

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