While Saudi Arabia is persistently demanding security guarantee as a condition to normalize ties with Israel, political experts are warning Washington not to.
As the Biden administration is restlessly pursuing an agreement to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, supporters of a U.S. security guarantee for the Saudis now face opposition in Washington. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal in early August, Israel’s Foreign Minister Eli Cohen stated that US defense commitments to Riyadh are necessary and “a foundation upon which real regional coordination can be built.” He even suggested to the Biden administration to use the example of the security agreement that the US has signed with South Korea as a model to provide solid security guarantee to Saudi Arabia.
The official security commitment from the US is one of the biggest demands of the Saudis as part of their preconditions for agreeing to the normalization of relations with Israel, and recent reports indicate that the Biden administration has seriously welcomed this idea.
This is while as many political experts in Washington believe, America does not need and cannot afford additional security commitments. In this regard, Daniel Larison, a political analyst and a PhD holder at Harvard University wrote in an op-ed last week and expressed deep concerns over the matter. “The US should certainly not commit to risking the lives of its soldiers to fight on behalf of an authoritarian country like Saudi Arabia,” Larison wrote in the op-ed the he published in Responsible Statecraft this Friday.
He also noted that “America should not forget that in the last ten years, Saudi Arabia has launched an aggressive war against its poorer neighbor, Yemen, and in this war, America has repeatedly put its military personnel at risk on behalf of the Saudis, only to ruin its international image.” Last but not least, Larison believes that a formal defense commitment to Saudi Arabia is “unacceptable and contrary to US interests”.
What else Saudi Arabia wants in exchange for normalization with Israel?
Saudi Arabia wants three main things in return for a potential normalization agreement with Israel: U.S. security guarantees, access to top-shelf American military equipment and technology, and support for a domestic civil nuclear program.
But it is not the security guarantee nor the demand to access US modern military equipment that can be Washington’s biggest headache. It is in fact the third demand that may be the most challenging for Washington, since it includes access to uranium enrichment technology that can be used to produce a nuclear explosive.
Although Riyadh has expressed its interest in accessing to peaceful nuclear energy several times in the past years, Washington cannot simply trust the Kingdom, and especially the young ambitious Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman in this case.
In other words, one in Washington only need to recall bin Salman’s nuclear remarks in a 2018 to forget all about giving such technology to the Kingdom. Back then, and in an interview with the 60 Minutes, bin Salman said that “Saudi Arabia does not want to acquire any nuclear bomb, but without a doubt if Iran developed a nuclear bomb, we will follow suit as soon as possible.”
All in all, as US thinker believe, the last thing America needs today is to divert more attention and resources to an area where it has devoted its foreign policy for the past 20 years, but that is exactly what will happen if America makes the big mistake and give in to Saudis’ demands for normalization of relations with Israel.