Israel Should Join the U.S. and Its Other Allies in Policing Regional Sea Lanes

Jan. 11 2023

Last week, the U.S. Navy intercepted a fishing vessel in the Gulf of Oman loaded with thousands of AK-47s, which it was bringing from Iran to Houthi militants in Yemen. The interdiction underscores the importance of policing these waters, a task often shared by the Combined Maritime Task Force, a U.S.-led league of 34 countries that includes such Middle Eastern states as the UAE, Bahrain, Jordan, and Egypt. Bradley Bowman and Ryan Brobst argue that Israel should be invited to join:

Iran has repeatedly attempted to seize American unmanned surface vessels (USVs). On August 29, 2022, the U.S. Navy detected an Iranian ship in the Persian Gulf towing an American USV. When U.S. forces responded, the Iranian vessel cut the line towing the USV and departed. Two days later, another Iranian ship seized two USVs that had been operating in the Red Sea for more than 200 days without incident. Two U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyers responded quickly, seeking to recover the USVs. The Iranian crew refused to release them for approximately eighteen hours, eventually relenting the next morning.

Israel shares an interest in countering smuggling and other malign activity in the Red Sea, and it previously conducted naval exercises with Bahrain, the UAE, and the U.S. in those waters focused on “visit, board, search, and seizure tactics.”

The Israeli navy is one of the more capable in the region and has a naval base at Eilat located on the Red Sea’s Gulf of Aqaba. . . . Israeli naval assets also include dozens of patrol boats operated by crews experienced in detecting and interdicting smuggling operations, especially those conducted by Iranian proxies.

Read more at Defense News

More about: IDF, Iran, Naval strategy, U.S. Security, Yemen


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount