Saudi media reports point to national anxieties over lifting of Iran sanctions

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As trade and investment are set to pour into Iran, and oil pours out, Saudi media are reporting on widespread unease within the Kingdom over the lifting of international sanctions on Teheran.

The al-Jazirah daily’s cartoonist drew an incarnation of American capitalism in striped trousers and top hat carrying a bottle marked “sanctions,” from which emerged a genie in the guise of a Shi’ite militia fighter, his turban marked “Iran.”

Saudi men walk through the halls of King Saud University in Riyadh. /Photo by Maariv Hamusaf
Saudi men walk through the halls of King Saud University in Riyadh. /Photo by Maariv Hamusaf

The main cartoon in al-Watan daily showed a pencil broken mid-way through writing the word “peace,” while an opinion piece underneath it asked: “Will Iran change after the nuclear deal enters implementation?” The answer: probably not.

Saudi Arabia’s economy continues in decline due to low oil prices, which may go even lower when Iranian crude enters the market. Meanwhile, Iran is anticipating a trade and investment boom from non-oil sectors, such as agriculture and car manufacturing, that Saudi Arabia does not have.

Some analysts are even predicting a return to year 2000 economic realities, when Iran’s gross domestic product was larger than Saudi’s. According to current International Monetary Fund data, Saudi at $650 billion now outpaces Iran at $400 billion.

When the news hit that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers had been implemented and sanctions would be lifted, fears arose of a slide in oil prices below their existing level of under $30. Iran immediately ordered an increase in output – and Saudi stocks fell by 5 percent.

Saudi nerves are further frayed by diplomatic troubles with Iran just as a slew of world leaders are set to visit Riyadh.

Chinese President Xi Jinping, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry are all slated to visit the Kingdom this week.

The collapse of Saudi-Iran relations and the wider risks it entails are seen likely to be addressed, particularly by both Xi and Sharif, who are also planning to visit Teheran.

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