Given the recent revival of Iran-Saudi Arabia diplomatic ties, a development which seemingly disrupted the process of normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel, it is pertinent to note that Washington has embarked on a recent initiative to resurrect a new impetus behind the Saudi-Israeli accord.
On the 27th of July, Thursday, Jake Sullivan, the U.S. National Security Advisor, engaged in discourse with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia in Jeddah. The purpose of this interaction, from Washington’s public perspective, is to underscore the US’s commitment to restoring peace in Yemen and by extension, solidifying its role in shaping peace and stability across the Middle East. The National Security Council statement accentuated this aim, emphasizing that the primary agenda of the dialogue concerned proliferating peace, stability, security, and prosperity within the Middle East. However, observers are more inclined to perceive a less apparent diplomatic maneuvering – specifically, the US Government’s efforts focused on propelling the Saudi-Israeli normalization process, countering Iran, and the potentially domino-like impacts on the US’s Middle Eastern policies.
Several analysts posit that Washington, against the backdrop of the restoration of Iran-Saudi relations which in effect has placed on the periphery the normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, is striving to breathe new life into the accord. An imperative driving force, for the US and Israel to achieve the agreement, is holding onto its ability to initiate political stratagems against Iran. It’s crucial to note that the Abraham Accords, from its inception, was not merely championing the normalization of relations between Israel and other Persian Gulf countries – its broader aim encompassed nurturing a holistic Arab-Israeli coalition against Iran. This resuscitation of diplomatic ties between Tehran and Riyadh has subsequently inconvenienced Washington and Tel Aviv’s strategic calculations, seeing that one of Israel’s integral policies in the Middle East, specifically vis-à-vis Saudi Arabia, has been establishing a balance of threats against Iran.
Certain reports suggest that Saudi Arabia, in response to Washington’s regional mandates, is soliciting a robust defense pact with the United States, backing for Riyadh’s civilian nuclear program, and the potential acquisition of advanced American weaponry. Understood within this context, the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia were seemingly cautiously anticipated to act as a lever for Riyadh against the US and Israel. Given the internal weakening of Israel—exemplified by the continual protests and the deterioration of Tel Aviv’s foreign relations—it could further impair the regional policy of the United States. Nevertheless, the domino effect of the normalization process between Saudi Arabia and Israel implies a resurgence in Israel’s normalization with other Muslim countries in the region, thus rejuvenating Tel Aviv’s regional policy, maintaining the opportunity for the United States to spearhead political initiatives in the region, especially against Iran and its international counterparts, China and Russia.
Simultaneously, the United States is fanning the flames of military tensions in the Persian Gulf. The escalation of military presence in the form of fighters, warships, forces, and US military drills in the Persian Gulf has elicited a defensive response from Iran.
Moreover, some observers perceive the Biden administration’s renewed efforts to rectify the normalization process between Saudi Arabia and Israel through the lens of the Democrats’ election ambitions in the US. Washington, in alignment with this perspective, is striving to score diplomatic triumphs in the Middle East prior to the crescendo of the presidential election campaign. Subsequent to Sullivan’s diplomatic rendezvous in Saudi Arabia, President Joe Biden alluded to this possibility during a campaign trail in Freeport, Maine, proclaiming to his supporters, “There’s a rapprochement maybe under way.”
As it stands, these consultations and endeavors toward a prospective agreement seem set to continue. Sullivan had previously encountered Bin Salman in May during a visit to Jeddah. This could likely signal an augmentation of Riyadh’s bargaining power against Washington. The Saudis, in exchange for normalizing relations with Israel, are endeavoring to solidify a ‘NATO-level’ security pact – a treaty that would oblige the United States to defend Riyadh in the event of an attack, as reported by Thomas Friedman of the New York Times.