The response of the US to the China brokered deal between Iran and SA

T. Belman. This is a very important article. When China Brokered a deal between Iran and SA, I said that it could be a good thing and quoted Newton’s law, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” In other words, it forced the US to respond and this article discusses the response.

It seems the US has a tough time achieving its goals. Bibi is no longer seen as the interrogatory between Arab states and the US. He has been replaced by MBS.

Saudi Arabia is the key to fulfilling President Biden’s strategy in the Middle East, but the kingdom is in a different place than it was a year and a half – and so is IsraelA photo of Dr. Zvi Bar'el.

By Zvi Bar’el, HAARETZ    9.5.23

A combination picture shows Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/ REUTERS

U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan’s visit to Saudi Arabia did not provide a lot of good news for Israel, which was not even one of the stops planned for his trip. True, Sullivan did hold a conference call with Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and National Security Adviser Tzachi Hanegbi before his flight to Riyadh, and two of his senior advisers – Brett McGurk and Amos Hochstein – did arrive in Israel on Monday to update their Israeli counterparts, but according to Israeli officials, no one is holding their breath in preparation for the signing of an agreement to normalize relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

“The normalization, if it does happen, does not stand on its own, it is part of a new fabric of strategic relations that President [Joe] Biden aspires to establish in the Middle East and which received urgency in light of the agreement to renew diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and the growing involvement of China in diplomatic processes in the Middle East,” one Israeli official said.

This framework of relations even has its own captivating title: “Regional security architecture,” which will include security cooperation between the United States and countries in the region, including the Gulf states, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and Israel – and between these countries too. This idea was also enshrined in the military budget for 2023, which was submitted in 2022 on Biden’s orders to his Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was tasked with formulating a detailed policy to map out the Iranian missile threats and to offer ways to address them.

A year earlier, the U.S. administration decided to add Israel to its Central Command, instead of its previous place in the European Command, a step that allows the U.S. military to conduct joint exercises with Israel and Arab nations, and to open channels of communication between the Israel Defense Forces and Arab militaries.

A civilian framework for regional cooperation called I2U2 Group was also established in 2021. The members, in addition to Israel, are the United Arab Emirates, United States and India. The purpose was to establish a framework for exchanging knowledge and investments in civilian sectors such as agriculture and energy – but also with a look toward security cooperation beyond military procurement and joint exercises.

Senior officials in the Biden administration explained in interviews that the final goal of the “strategic architecture” is to strengthen the capabilities of the countries in the region to build defensive and warning systems that will not require American military involvement, and this will enable the withdrawal of American troops from all the countries and bases where they are deployed today. This does not mean the United States will not intervene in the case of a cardinal regional conflict, but it does mean empowering local capabilities to reduce the potential outbreak of large conflicts.

The integration of Israeli forces with those of Arab countries, and especially those of the Gulf states, is essential to fulfil this strategy. But this is where the United States ran into two main difficulties: In spite of the closer relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, they have not signed a peace treaty, and even more importantly, Saudi Arabia is nurturing its cooperation with China, which in turn produced the agreement between the Saudis and Iran in March, under Chinese auspices.

At the same time, India – another important partner in the American strategy in region – is not committed exclusively to military cooperation with the Arab countries, and its relations with Iran and Russia make it very clear that for now, India prefers to keep all its options open. About a week before Sullivan’s visit to Riyadh – during which he met with the Emirates national security adviser Sheikh Tahnoon bin Zayed Al Nahyan and his Indian counterpart Ajit Doval – Doval visited Tehran. He met there with his Iranian counterpart Ali Shamkhani, President Ebrahim Raisi and Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian to discuss the expansion of economic cooperation between the two nations, and the trade between them has now reached $2.5 billion.

Iran asked India to put into operation a trade system based on the Iranian rial and Indian rupee to bypass the American sanctions on deals conducted in dollars, and it seems India plans on agreeing to the request. In addition, India and Iran have a shared interest in turning the Iranian port of Chabahar, the development of which India has invested in, into a commercial hub joining western Asia and China. This relationship between India and Iran, along with the expanding Chinese influence, has made India a nation essential for the United States in its attempts to construct a wall to block Iran and China.

Given the Biden administration’s assessment that the existing arrangement of regional relations – such as those between India and Iran, between Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, and recently between Saudi Arabia and Iran – are part of the new reality in the Middle East, the American goal is to at least preserve its power and status as an influential superpower. This would be carried out by the establishment of parallel strategic partnerships such as military and civilian cooperation between some of the countries in the region and would also include Israel. Washington cannot expect exclusivity anymore when the line between the pro-American and anti-American countries is becoming much fuzzier.

The country that’s the key to achieving the new architecture is Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis now have a different status than a year and a half ago – and the same goes for Israel. From a nation ostracized by the United States, Saudi Arabia has now become a sought-after country that has forced Biden to visit and meet with a man who repulses him, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and to ask him to raise oil production quotas in an attempt to reduce the energy shortage resulting from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The crown prince may have bumped fists with Biden, but no oil came out of it. The tension between the two leaders remained, and even grew. Saudi Arabia still hopes to rebuild its relations with the United States, but this time the country’s new status may also allow it to dictate conditions – and not just obey them. Riyadh also realized quite well that the previous Israel, which could influence the U.S. government to grant it rehabilitation, no longer exists. Crown Prince Mohammed is certainly finding it hard to be convinced that the Israeli prime minister, who has not yet been invited to White House for a visit, is actually the person who could build a friendly relationship between him and Biden. In practice, Netanyahu has now found himself in the place where Crown Price Mohammed was with the Biden administration, just without the levers of influence the Saudi leader has.

Given all this, it now seems the price of normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia will have to be adjusted to take into account America’s interests and what it is willing to pay the Saudis in return, beginning with the approval for construction of American-built nuclear reactors, the sale of advanced warplanes – and no less important, reliance on Crown Prince Mohammed as the “trustee” for American policy in the region, as he was during Donald Trump’s presidency, and that of his predecessors. Saudi Arabia is not in hurry. It isn’t the one under pressure and it’s not the one worried about losing its influence in the region.

May 10, 2023 | 3 Comments »

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  1. This is a very important article. When China Brokered a deal between Iran and SA, I said that it could be a good thing and quoted Newton’s law, “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
    In other words, it forced the US to respond and this article discusses the response.