As the United States is trying to normalize ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel, the first signs of disagreement with the idea are now emerging, surprisingly inside the US.
Since coming to power in 2021, US president Joe Biden has been restlessly trying to do the unthinkable and normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, two years-long rivals in the Middle East region.
The efforts have indeed been the continuation of what Donald Trump, the US former president, had started in 2020 by making a normalization deal between Israel in one side, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain in the other, known as the Abraham Accords.
But now, opposition voices against US efforts to turn the two rivals in the region into allies are rising. Many political experts now believe that making concessions to Saudi Arabia to convince it to agree to a normalization deal with Israel is not only not in the interest of Washington, but it will even harm America’s interests in the region.
Daniel Larison, a regular columnist at Responsible Statecraft think tank and a former senior editor at The American Conservative magazine, believes that a security pact with Saudi Arabia would be “a disaster” for US interests. In an analytical article published in Responsible Statecraft this Friday, Larison warned that if the US agrees to Saudi demands, it will mean that the Kingdom, and even Israel, will soon be asking for more.
Good to mention here that a new formal security commitment is one of the main Saudi demands as part of the price for normalizing relations with Israel, and recent reports suggest that the Biden administration is seriously entertaining the idea.
“President Biden should shut this down now. The U.S. does not need and cannot afford any additional security commitments. It certainly shouldn’t be pledging to send its soldiers to fight on behalf of a despotic monarchy that has been waging an aggressive war against its poorer neighbor for most of the last ten years. The U.S. has already put its military personnel in harm’s way too many times on behalf of the Saudis, and there should be no guarantee to do so in the future,” Larison wrote.
Israel is careless of US interests
To push Washington into get the Saudis’ agreement for a normalization deal at any cost, the Israeli foreign minister, Eli Cohen, said earlier this week that the US should offer a defense commitment to Riyadh as “the foundation upon which true regional harmony can be built” and used the example of Washington’s treaty with South Korea as a model.
Larison, however, attacked such way of thinking and noted in his Friday article that Cohen’s comparison with Korea is “bizarre”.
“For one thing, the animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is nothing like the decades-long hostility between North and South Korea. Iran has no interest in conquering the kingdom, and it lacks the means to do it even if it wanted to try. Unlike North Korea, Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and despite the best efforts of the U.S. and Israeli governments in the last few years their government has still not decided to pursue them,” Larison added.
What would be the consequences for the region?
Giving Saudi Arabia a security guarantee would send a threatening signal to Iran, which in turn rise the probability of making regional tensions even worse and might even encourage hardliners in Iran to pursue more confrontational policies.
“Far from fostering true regional harmony, this would stoke conflict by expanding the U.S. role in the Persian Gulf, and it would also encourage the Saudi government to become more reckless on the assumption that the US would be there to help them out,” Larison concluded.