President Biden’s upcoming trip to the Middle East, which includes stops in both Israel and Saudi Arabia, gives him an opportunity to correct early missteps, writes John Hannah. But the president can also use his meetings with American allies to build “a new U.S.-led alliance system grounded in unprecedented Arab-Israeli cooperation against the Iranian threat,” built on the foundations of the Abraham Accords.
The Saudis are the big prize in the [Israel-]normalization sweepstakes, and [the Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, or MBS,] has made clear that he sees enormous benefits from making peace with Israel, the region’s dominant military and technological power. But such a game-changing move would also carry significant risks for the kingdom—with religious extremists both at home and abroad only too eager to wield the incendiary charge of “betrayer of Islam” against the House of Saud. The chances that MBS will be prepared to take on the radicals by making significant steps toward Israel are inversely correlated to his belief that Saudi Arabia’s most important security partner, the United States, not only doesn’t have his back, but is working to empower his greatest enemy in Iran.
Thanks to the Yemen war, no country on earth has endured more attacks from Iranian-supplied missiles and drones than Saudi Arabia. No country stands to benefit more from gaining access to Israel’s unparalleled experience in building the world’s most successful missile-defense system. It’s a match ready to be made, waiting only for a president prepared to put the full weight of America’s power and leadership behind it.
It would be a major victory for Biden, the cornerstone of a new American-led security order that would pay huge dividends not only in containing the escalating threat from Iran, but in stemming the dangerous rise of Chinese and Russian influence in the region. Better yet, Biden would be certain to have broad support in Congress, where earlier this month a bipartisan group of legislators from both chambers introduced the DEFEND act, urging the administration to move rapidly to help build an integrated air-defense system between Israel and its Arab neighbors.
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