Saturday, September 23, 2023

China’s descent into the Gulf and the withdrawal of the United States threaten Arab-Israeli relations

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman Receives Chinese President Xi Jinping In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia On December 8, 2022.  Bandar Algoud/Courtesy Saudi Royal Court/Handout Via Reuters

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman receives Chinese President Xi Jinping in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on December 8, 2022. Bandar Algoud/Courtesy Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters

In the year 2020, during the administration of former President Donald Trump, the “Abraham Accords” between the four Arab states and the State of Israel emerged as a breakthrough that would end many years of non-existent relations. Hope for a new era on the political map of the Middle East.

As regional analysts expected which Arab-Islamic nation would become the next signatory to the aforementioned agreements, optimism was a factor in the diplomatic dialogue of the day. Unfortunately, however, the expected diplomatic progress did not materialize, a draft of a new regional map showed Washington’s decision to step down as mediator, and hopes faded over time.

President Joe Biden’s new administration began withdrawing and withdrawing from the region, with the first signs being the disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan, as well as the lack of response to two Iranian missile attacks that targeted strategic Saudi oil facilities, fueling frustration with the administration. was considered. Biden for Gulf countries. The lack of US response sent a negative message to the Sunni Gulf states, which interpreted the United States as a reliable partner of the Trump administration over the years and held back the possibility of other Gulf states joining the Abraham Accords, as expected in oil. in Aviv and Riyadh.

Despite their good intentions, the management priorities of the first year of the Biden administration did not help the case for the extension of the Abraham Accords, his officials did not move forward in diplomacy, so Republican sectors criticized the management, alleging that the Democratic government Worked in this way to defame the previous government

However, in the past three months, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has made a sharp turn in the administration’s position and is now showing enthusiastic support of the deals in hopes of reaching out and enticing the Saudis to join in the second half. current year. It is being seen by US analysts as a functional strategy to showcase President Biden’s achievements in that area when he launches his campaign for re-election in 2024. While more knowledgeable of events in the Gulf and Middle East, he notes that Blinken’s outreach to the Saudi kingdom is not just about Biden’s presidential campaign, but also aimed at keeping Riyadh and other Sunni Arab capitals at bay with China. What is preventing the deepening of ties is a player who has a foothold in this area in both contexts. In political, economic and military technology.

The truth is that the Saudi kingdom has not hidden its interest in normalizing relations with Israel, in fact it has been the patron who has promoted and supported agreements with other Sunni nations that have already done so. Although Saudi diplomats are demanding that Washington implement tougher policies in neutralizing terrorism in the Palestinian territories, as leaders of the Arab world, the Saudis see Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad as a problem to be solved to such an extent that that their adversary Shia (Iran) supports those groups.

The Kingdom has also set a condition for Washington to move forward in reconciliation and agreement with Israel. In this regard, the Saudis requested US help in developing a civilian nuclear program and the removal of existing restrictions on the acquisition of advanced US weapons and equipment.

The general belief within the Arab world is that there is little or no chance of success for full normalization with Israel, whether inside or outside the framework of the Abraham Accords, as long as King Salman—the crown prince’s father—remains on the throne. This is because the monarch has historically been committed – albeit marginally – to the Palestinian cause. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on the other hand, has a more modern vision and although he has not ruled out aid to the Palestinian people, he does not welcome the use of Saudi aid by armed organizations in Gaza. The Crown Prince’s plans include a ten-year vision in which Saudi Arabia should engage unfettered with industry and innovative technology at Israel’s disposal.

Under the direction of the Crown Prince’s views and plans, Israel and the United States should gradually work to achieve normalization so as to strengthen ties, whether this normalization is signed in a separate agreement or along the same lines as Abraham’s. Let’s do. agreements; Saudi Arabia is more relevant in all respects than the other Abraham signatories and there should be no shortage of diplomatic efforts to boost relations which will certainly change the equation in the Middle East once normalization is achieved.

In a deal with Saudi Arabia, Oman would have no fears or reservations about joining the Saudis. Omanis feel they are the primary targets of Tehran’s revolutionary plans. Hence the importance of the joint meeting with the Saudi and Omani officials for Washington and Tel Aviv.

Arab sources in the Gulf states have told Infobay under confidentiality that these steps could lead to a preliminary search for normalization of relations with Israel, although the alternative would not be to locate this normalization within the Abraham Accords.

Israel has already publicly stated so, they have no problem supporting technological and scientific developments in places like Oman and therefore do not expect political relations to come first. In the past Israel had trading offices in Oman and Qatar. Oman closed the Israeli Trade Office in September 2000 when the Second Palestinian Intifada broke out, and the Qataris also closed theirs in 2007. Omanis once welcomed meetings with their former sultan PM Yitzhak Rabin in 1994 and Benjamin Netanyahu in 2018, and unlike Qataris, they have shown keen interest in reaching out and establishing ties with Israel.

There is no doubt that paving the way for the opening of relations with Israel requires different strategies and different policies for each Arab nation. But nor can there be any doubt that all points of view will agree that the normalization of relations will benefit Arab countries in a variety of areas, primarily economic matters. However, the fundamental element in relations in the region is “trust”, something that the Saudis assess as an essential condition for improving their relations with the United States, but Riyadh is still on the Biden administration due to various indications. doubts. In these three years Washington gave; Especially in the impasse over the Iranian nuclear program, which according to the Saudis has been dangerously negative and consistent with the US withdrawal from the region, which according to Sunni Arab countries has also allowed a dangerous strengthening of Iran.

What worries Gulf Arabs is that, unlike in the days of Donald Trump’s presidency, today they feel the Biden administration is not perceived as a potent military threat to its enemies and this has contributed to a loss of confidence in Washington. Played a decisive role, which is underestimated. The willingness of the Gulf countries to ally with Israel against the Iranians. The Saudi-Iranian rapprochement mediated by China must be understood. However, the Saudis know that this is not a sure or permanent solution to the differences between the two.

Arabs and Israel are watching to see if President Biden will indeed draw a “red line” in moving against nuclear Iran. If this does not happen, US foreign policy interests in the Middle East risk weakening, instability will increase and rifts will deepen. So the Saudis and their Sunni partners in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCCG) will be pushed into Beijing’s arms in the absence of action by President Biden, and if that happens, there will be no plausible path to new economic deals for security. Or any kind between Arabs and Israelis. This could happen if there is an active transition in which the US leadership decides to return to a region that needs its presence to maintain the stability and prosperity of its historical partners.

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