update deskU.S.-Israel Relations

US pessimistic on Israel-Saudi normalization

Senior American officials say that the chances of an agreement are less than 50%.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 7, 2023. Source: Twitter.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, June 7, 2023. Source: Twitter.

Despite its best efforts, Washington believes that the chances of an Israel-Saudi normalization agreement are less than 50%, according to senior U.S. administration officials cited by The New York Times.

Last week, White House Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Brett McGurk led an unpublicized delegation to Saudi Arabia. The trip came days after U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the kingdom, and then briefed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the Saudi demands during a 40-minute phone call.

These demands reportedly include U.S. assistance with Riyadh’s civilian nuclear program, and security guarantees. 

White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited Saudi Arabia on May 7.

Saudi Arabia moves closer to Iran

The report comes amid warming relations between Riyadh and Tehran following the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries in March in an agreement mediated by Beijing.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Iran on Saturday in the first visit to the country by a Saudi official in more than seven years. Riyadh severed relations with Tehran in 2016 after its diplomatic missions there and in Mashhad were attacked following Saudi Arabia’s execution of a prominent Shi’ite religious leader.

Prince Fasail met with his Iranian counterpart and other top officials in Tehran, including Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who just returned from Venezuela. The Iranian president criticized Israel during his talks with the Saudi foreign minister.

“Only the enemies of Islam, led by the Zionist regime, are upset with the progress in bilateral and regional cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” said Raisi, according to the Iranian state news agency IRNA.

Raisi also voiced his opposition to normalization efforts between Arab countries and Israel.

“The Zionist regime is not only an enemy of the Palestinians, it is a threat to all Muslims. The normalization of relations with Israel not only fails to promote security but also goes against the opinions of the Islamic Ummah [community].”

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