(TIME) As Middle Eastern nations attempted to elbow one another aside in their efforts to offer encouraging statements about the recently concluded nuclear talks between Iran and six world powers on Sunday, Saudi Arabia took its time. More than a day later the Cabinet offered its own pallid take: “If there is goodwill, then this agreement could represent a preliminary step toward a comprehensive solution to the Iranian nuclear program.” Behind the gritted-teeth delivery there lurked an almost palpable sense of frustration, betrayal and impotence as Saudi Arabia watched its foremost foe gain ground in a 34-year competition for influence in the region.

As discussions leading up to the historic agreement in Geneva unfurled over the past several months, Saudi did its utmost to express its discontent, lobbying behind closed doors for greater restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and rejecting at the last minute a long-sought seat on the U.N. Security Council. Saudi officials even threatened to get their own nuclear weapons; just before the talks concluded the Saudi ambassador to the U.K., Prince Mohammed bin Nawaf bin Abdulaziz, told the Times of London: “We are not going to sit idly by and receive a threat there and not think seriously how we can best defend our country and our region.”

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