On Tuesday, the White House announced that the president is planning a visit to the Middle East, which will include stops in both Israel and Saudi Arabia. While in Riyadh, President Biden will no doubt endeavor to repair a historic relationship that his administration has thus far done much to undermine. One of the key sticking points involves the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran, which the kingdom—like Israel—opposes and the U.S. still seeks to revive. Mark Dubowitz and Daniel B. Shapiro suggest ways to bring diplomatic progress nonetheless:
The bridge to overcome this disagreement is to achieve understandings on what follows the nuclear talks, whether they collapse or result in a renewed nuclear deal. In either case, Iran’s implacable hostility can be expected to fuel escalation. Recognizing the severe threat Iran and its proxies will continue to pose to U.S. forces and partners necessitates clear U.S. commitments, underscored by its ongoing presence in the region: to assist in development of integrated regional air defenses; . . . to facilitate interdictions of weapons shipments to proxies; to rally international condemnation of the regime’s interference in its neighbors’ affairs and abuse of its own people; and to prepare military deterrence and defense options, alone or with others, to ensure Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon.
For Biden, the core strategic interest that must be addressed is ensuring that Saudi Arabia continues to orient its policies toward the United States, rather than hedge its bets by leaning toward Russia and China.
Beyond the confines of this visit, it’s in the broader interests of both countries for Saudi Arabia eventually to join the Abraham Accords. This is a priority that Biden should advance, and a stabilized bilateral relationship should enable him to do so in the remaining years of his first term. Growing Israeli-Saudi military and intelligence cooperation suggests the promise of greater commercial, technological, and people-to-people cooperation, and eventual full diplomatic relations. Cementing a coalition of moderate states in the region, advancing Saudi modernization, development, and economic-diversification goals, and—handled sensitively—offering the Palestinians a path to participate in normalization that improves, rather than impedes, prospects for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement are all mutual goals that normalization can advance.
More about: Iran, Israel-Arab relations, Joseph Biden, Middle East, Saudi Arabia