Building the Regional Security Architecture Cannot Wait

The triangular relationship between the State of Israel, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America is essential for the emerging regional security architecture in the Middle East and Islamdom at large. Much is at stake, will Iran come to dominate the Middle East and Islamdom or will it not? All this is held hostage by the intense personal animosity between the crown prince of Saudi Arabia and the president of the United States. Saudi and American diplomats probably dare not even discuss the question of the personal dispute between the two leaders due to the immense sensitivity at hand. Building a new regional security architecture and including as many regional nations as possible is quite an urgent task. Considering the sensitivity and urgency of the issue, there is certainly a need for a traditional sulha (reconciliation) process between MBS and Biden. 

The Saudis are profoundly suspicious of American intentions and understandably so. The Saudis of course understand that US Iran envoy Rob Malley wants to sell them out but do not know whether his personal Iran agenda is also the agenda of the Biden administration as a whole. The Saudis are furthermore perplexed by the undiplomatic and profoundly culturally insensitive behavior of the Biden administration towards the Saudi ruler.

Yet the fact is that MBS was ready in 2021 to normalize relations with Israel and thus join the emerging new regional security architecture and the United States for unknown reasons turned down his offer. To the Saudis this of course seems like suspicious behavior and would indicate that the Biden administration is beholden to Malley’s personal Iran agenda of realigning America with Iran.

From the Saudi perspective, American-Saudi relations are deepfrozen due to Saudi lack of trust in the Biden administration. However, Riyadh needs to take a realist, non-emotive perspective on the issue. There is no chance that Malley’s agenda of reconciling, much less aligning Iran and America will succeed. Even the Vienna talks are two months beyond their deadline and Tehran is merely playing for time while pretending to negotiate and using the time to legitimize their advanced uranium enrichment.

I certainly agree with the Saudi position that the United States needs to provide security guarantees and sell advanced weaponry as part of KSA normalizing relations with Israel. This is a most reasonable demand since Riyadh joining the new emerging regional security architecture should involve a significant upgrade to the Saudi-Israeli-American triangular relationship. It is of course also immensely frustrating to Riyadh that American Jewish organizations apparently currently are ineffective in their advocacy for Riyadh in Washington. 

Saudi Arabia needs to consider a different approach whereby things will not occur in the exact order currently expected and desired by Riyadh. By beginning with normalization with Jerusalem will Riyadh also pave the way for normalization with Washington. The Biden administration for some reason does not believe it needs to provide incentives to Muslim nations interested in normalization with Israel. Why this is so is unclear. The Biden administration probably mistakenly perceives normalization as a bilateral issue between Jerusalem and Riyadh rather than a trilateral issue between America, Israel and KSA. The results are in any case apparent since no Muslim nation has normalized relations with Israel since team Biden took over the White House and team Biden unfortunately do not appear overly concerned.

The reality is that China and Russia offer no attractive alternatives to KSA as they are already aligned with Iran. Of course it is reasonable for KSA to keep its options open with regard to Beijing and Moscow should Washington go so far as abandoning Saudi Arabia. However, the reality is that KSA presently has no other realistic option than alignment with Israel and integration into the new emerging regional security architecture. There is no sense in further deferring this as Saudi Arabia is quite indispensable to the new regional security architecture which in turn is indispensable to KSA. I make no excuses for the inexplicable refusal of the United States to provide security guarantees and sell further advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia, however Riyadh must act resolutely to safeguard its own vital national security interests and it needs to do so without any further undue delay.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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