RS: How did MBS manage to shrug off his pariah status?
Responsible Statecraft explains that officials from Biden's administration are now discussing what they may provide Riyadh in exchange for better relations with "Israel", including nuclear technology and security.
In an analysis for Responsible Statecraft, Paul R. Pillar explains how the United States has concerns about the relationship between "Israel" and Saudi Arabia.
Even Antony Blinken mentioned it in an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last week.
"The United States has a real national security interest in promoting normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.” But what exactly is that interest? Blinken remained silent. On no other instance has the Biden administration supplied such an explanation.
According to Sedat Laciner, Antony Blinken's most recent visit to Riyadh with the intention of "repairing strained relations" was not met with much of the usual hospitality, as even news of Karim Benzema moving from Real Madrid received more press coverage than the Blinken visit.
Pillar expresses that KSA and "Israel" having full diplomatic relations does not advance US national interest, rather the actual interest would be provided through the security cooperation between "Israel" and Saudi Arabia; however, this has already been achieved between the two.
The author also argues that the two countries' normalization would not be a "peace" agreement due to them technically not being in a state of war.
In fact, he argues that "Israel" would only tout normalization as a further cementing of its "anti-Iran alliance" which he believes "sharpens the lines of conflict and heightens tensions" in the region. He also adds that normalization would also decrease any real motivation for the Israeli occupation to address its occupation and refuse to "make peace" with the Palestinians.
Biden administration's secret reasons
Pillar believes the Netanyahu administration desires full diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia, as it did before with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco, as proof that it can maintain contacts with regional powers while continuing to occupy and de facto absorb Palestinian land. The symbolic importance of this have-your-cake-and-eat-it capitulation to "Israel" would be the main meaning of normalizing relations with Riyadh.
The author further details how the Biden administration has for secret reasons still sought after the normalization and is prepared to pay to achieve it.
He recalls how the Trump administration had to make "side payments" to some Arab nations to normalize the occupation, such as the F-35 aircraft to the United Arab Emirates and supporting Morocco's claim to Western Sahara, a position never before adopted by the US.
Pillar details that Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) is now demanding his own side payments in the form of "unrestricted arms transfers, US security guarantees to Saudi Arabia, and assistance in building a Saudi nuclear program."
According to Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut, “If we’re going to enter into a relationship with the Saudis where we’re doing more significant arms sales, it should be in exchange for better behavior toward the United States, not just better behavior toward Israel.”
The demand for a Saudi nuclear program has a significant disadvantage in that it increases the potential for nuclear weapons proliferation in the Middle East. MBS has publicly stated that the Kingdom would develop nuclear weapons, citing Iran's potential to produce its own, a claim often refuted and disproven by Iran.
Pillar believes that starting in the Middle East is a dangerous path because Saudi Arabia has so far refused to sign a 123 Agreement, a formula that allows the US to assist civilian nuclear power programs in other countries but keeps uranium enrichment and fuel fabrication out of those countries to avoid the program being diverted to military purposes.
Saudis have also expressed an intention to develop a "nuclear Aramco."
Additionally, any security guarantees to Saudi, Pillar believes, would not serve US interests but rather enable MBS to engage in "Yemen-like violent mischief."
The Humanity Eye Center for Rights and Development issued a report in January that showed the number of casualties of the war on Yemen in 2022 alone was as high as 3,083 - 643 murdered citizens and 2,440 others wounded.
In addition, the Kingdom has no intention of making enemies with foes of the US, like Russia or Venezuela.
Pillar believes that Biden dropped his claim of KSA being a "pariah state," and that if the US aspires to compete with China in the region, its usual modus operandi of "dividing the areas rigidly into foes and friends," will not work. He adds that it should instead "emulate" China and attempt to have diplomacy with all. A move he says, allowed it to achieve the Saudi-Iranian rapprochement, something the US was unable to do.