update deskMiddle East

‘US defense pact would render Saudi nuclear program unnecessary’

America would protect the Gulf states from Iranian aggression, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen says.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview at the ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen seen during an interview at the ministry in Jerusalem, June 12, 2023. Photo by Yossi Aloni/Flash90.

U.S. defense guarantees under an Israeli-Saudi normalization agreement would make Gulf states’ nuclear ambitions “unnecessary,” according to Jerusalem’s top diplomat.

The Americans would be able to provide protection against Iranian aggression in the region, Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen argued in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday.

“[A] defense pledge could reassure Middle Eastern nations, primarily Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states,” he wrote.

“This approach would make individual nuclear ambitions unnecessary, bolster regional stability, and promote the peace and normalization agenda.”

Cohen continued: “A united front, bringing together moderate Sunni nations and Israel, would be an effective check on Iran’s growing ambitions.”

South Korea, which has not pursued nuclear weapons, could be a model for this arrangement, Cohen posited. Just as the U.S. protects Seoul from Pyongyang, so too could Washington defend Riyadh from Tehran.

“South Korea, despite living under the shadow of a nuclear-armed neighbor and having the means to develop its own nuclear weapons, has abstained from nuclear-weapons development,” Cohen wrote. “The U.S.’s defense commitment acts as South Korea’s deterrent against Northern aggression.”

Cohen earlier this week said that the Palestinian issue will not be an obstacle to normalizing relations with Saudi Arabia.

“The current Israeli government will take steps to improve the Palestinian economy,” he stated, amid reports that one of Riyadh’s demands for a U.S.-brokered deal to join the Abraham Accords involves concessions to the Palestinians.

“A visit to Israel by a Saudi foreign minister would be a day of celebration,” Cohen remarked, noting that governments led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had secured diplomatic relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco as part of the 2020 Abraham Accords.

He predicted that the Israeli premier and the Saudi crown prince would make history together.

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