Rethinking the American-Saudi-Israeli Triangular Relationship

In a 2021 visit to Saudi Arabia by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman al-Saud offered to fully normalize relations with Israel in return for advanced American weapons sales and a US-Saudi defense pact whereby the US would promise to defend the KSA in the event Saudi Arabia was invaded by Iran. Biden turned down the offer and now we instead have an incremental model for advancement in the American-Saudi-Israeli triangular relationship. The problem remains that Biden and MBS mutually consider each other unreliable and untrustworthy and so the Israelis who arranged Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia apparently figured that an incremental model was of essence. Nevertheless, it is a fact that MBS is ready for instant total normalization with Israel at the price of a defense pact with the US. A defense pact is a worthy goal and a vital interest for the US, the KSA and Israel despite many in Washington not yet understanding the immense strategic importance Saudi Arabia holds in the Israeli-Iranian rivalry and the utmost importance for American interests of ensuring that KSA never falls into Iranian hands. It may however be more realistic to get there in quick steps. Saudi Arabia offers strategic depth for Israel and were Iran to conquer KSA and Mecca would Iran pose an immediate existential conventional military threat against the State of Israel which may even lead Israel to resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iranian forces in the Arabian desert. Major American Jewish organizations should commence lobbying the White House and Congress for rapid American-Saudi-Israeli defense integration leading towards the goal of an American-Saudi defense pact. However, Washington should also demand that Saudi security services completely cease torturing suspects. This is certainly not an unreasonable demand to make from a nation seeking a defense pact with the United States. MBS is a man of dramatic gestures, yet he would be particularly well-advised to internalize that the highway to a defense pact runs through ever closer military integration between Washington, Riyadh and Jerusalem.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization

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