Some Surprising, If Tepid, Supporters of the Iran Deal

Including the Saudi king

Even as the framework for a comprehensive nuclear deal with Iran finds its detractors in Israel, within the membership of United States Congress, and among Iranian hardliners, the principles of the agreement were being championed (albeit equivocally) in some surprising corners.

Saudi Arabia

The kingdom was, after Israel, one of the most vehement opponents of Iran's nuclear program and frequently relayed concerns that a bad deal would destabilize the region. World leaders, including Saudi officials themselves, had previously suggested that such a deal would encourage the Gulf country to seek its own nuclear weapons and risk setting off a regional arms race.

But in the wake of Thursday's announcement, Saudi Arabia's King Salman has expressed "his hope that reaching a final binding deal would strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world,” according to state media. "It seems that Iran's dream to acquire nuclear weapons dissipated in the Swiss city of Lausanne yesterday," read a Saudi paper owned the ruling family.

Saudi warplanes meanwhile continue to strike Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.

'Hardliners' in Iran

At Friday prayers in Tehran, Ayatollah Mohammad Emami-Kashani, whom Reuters described as a "hardline cleric," offered his congratulations to the negotiators. Other Iranian conservatives have been vocal in their opposition to a potential deal throughout the negotiations, but Emami-Kashani called the negotiating team "firm, wise and calm" in a sermon at Tehran University. "The Supreme Leader supports these representatives."

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had publicly backed the nuclear talks prior to yesterday's announcement, all the while playing the role of potential spoiler. But as Trita Parsi wrote in The Atlantic recently, Khamenei had good reasons to support a deal. "For the first time since the Iranian Revolution," Parsi wrote, "Iran can strike a deal with the West that would sustain and even recognize its independence from Western demands." He added that this would be the first such positive outcome of negotiations between Iran and Western powers in two centuries, and could secure Khamenei's legacy.

In President Obama's speech from the White House Rose Garden on Thursday, he cited a religious decree Khamenei had delivered against the development of nuclear weapons as showing that the framework reached yesterday should receive the supreme leader's backing. "[T]his framework gives Iran the opportunity to verify that its program is, in fact, peaceful," he said.