Monday, October 28, 2013

Historic Rapprochement?

With Saudi Arabia's recent, dramatic diplomatic moves, an unlikely alliance appears to be emerging

Quietly, Israel and the Gulf States Draw Closer -Jonathan Spyer

Recent remarks by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have fueled renewed speculation of behind-the-scenes links between Israel and the Gulf monarchies.

Netanyahu, speaking at the UN, said that "the dangers of a nuclear-armed Iran and the emergence of other threats in our region have led many of our Arab neighbors to recognize, finally recognize, that Israel is not their enemy."

He added: "This affords us the opportunity to overcome the historic animosities and build new relationships, new friendships, new hopes." There have been subsequent rumors of visits by senior Gulf officials to Israel, to discuss matters of common interest.

While it is difficult to acquire details of these contacts at the present time, it is a near certainty that they exist, on one level or another. Conversations with Israeli officials suggest that much is happening behind the scenes.

Israel and the key states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (most importantly, Saudi Arabia) share core views on the nature of key regional processes currently underway, and their desired outcome. These commonalities have existed for some time, and it is likely that the contacts are themselves not all that new.

There are three areas in which Israel and the countries are on the same page.

They are: the urgency of the threat represented by the prospect of a nuclear Iran, the danger represented by the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood over the last two years, and the perception that the United States fails to understand the urgency of these threats and, as a result, is acting in a naive and erroneous way on both.

On the U.S.: the Saudis think that the current U.S. administration is hopelessly naive on the Middle East. They were shocked at the abandonment of Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in 2011. They are equally vexed at the current indications of American and Western willingness to lift some sanctions against Iran in return for cosmetic concessions that would leave the core of Teheran's nuclear program intact.

The absence of American leadership may well be the key factor in causing Israel and the Gulf states to draw closer.

On the face of it, any alliance between Jewish Israel and Salafi Saudi Arabia might appear an absurdity.

[I]t is worth remembering the Wikileaks revelation of remarks made in private by Saudi King Abdullah to American General David Petraeus in April, 2008, in which he recommended military action against the Iranian nuclear program. The king referred to Iran as the "head of the snake," which should be cut off. No similarly venomous remarks on Israel were quoted from the conversation, which took place far from the public eye.

The de facto, unseen alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia and the GCC countries is one of the most intriguing structures currently emerging amid the whirling chaos of the Middle East.
[Middle East Forum]


LHwrites said...

This is getting a little ridiculous. No one has given any concessions to Iran. No one has removed a sanction or softened a stance. they have merely shown that if Iran is willing to truly change its stripes, the world community will accept this.
As for abandoning Mubarack, that's how it is. Sometimes we stick with tyrants too long, i.e. the Shah of Iran, but we have a long history of stabbing previous allies in the back, just ask Saddam Hussein---oh, you can't. The Saudis are unhappy about Mubarack because they are just like him and worry their people will rise up someday and we won't help them out either. They rightfully fear Iran, but they want us to attack them. You don't see all the Arab nations gearing up to attack Iran. There's a lot more to this, and of course, the final story is far form written.

Bruce said...

That the Saudis feel the need to [only somewhat secretly] pal it up with Israel is testiment enough that there is a serious disagreement between them and the US establishment.

The bombing of Iran's isolated nuclear sites is about a year overdue. And note that the US State Department is arguing for avoiding new sanctions...when, if there really is an opening, this is actually the time to bring more on.

The US track record of keeping countries nuke free is checkered, to say the least [North Korea, Pakistan].

The Saudis and Israelis probably believe that President Obama doesn't have the committment to hit Iran. I pray they are wrong. I fear they are correct.

LHwrites said...

I think the President has the commitment, it is the American citizenry and Congress that is war weary. Another example of how the misguided invasion of Iraq is continuing to haunt the safety of Israel and stability of the Mideast. I agree that there is a disagreement between Saudis and U.S. I said why, above already. The US track record of supporting suppressive governments, and things only getting worse, is sadly, less checkered, and more obviously poor. When there are peace overtures is not necessarily the best time to increase sanctions. Just as when you punish a child for not studying an hour a night and then they get to half an hour a night, it is better to praise their efforts than extoll and punish their failure to make a complete turn-around. The military option is never off the table. And as you pointed out with North Korea and Pakistan, sadly, regardless of the President in office, and the worldview at the time, it is not always possible to stop the internal workings of a country. However, North Korea and Iran both know what would happen if they were to try to use nukes. Just as Syria knew we would attack if they didn't agree to Russia's "suggestions" about their chemical weapons.

Bruce said...

The analogy to disciplining a child doesn't hold water in international dealings. Iran is not a child. If sanctions got them to the table, then more sanctions will increase our leverage.

LHwrites said...

Most nations act like children. If you meet possible compromise with an even firmer stance, you risk encouraging the hardliners, which Iran has plenty of. if there is a true softening, it is because their hardliners are wondering if there is another way to go before the cost of the sanctions forces their people to rise up against them. Further sanctions could give the people a target besides their own government and take the pressure of the regime. It's better to sound friendly, but remind them in closed door talks that the military option is never off the table.