Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Rumors of peace ….are just that

The Biden administration is floating a rumor regarding an imminent Saudi Israeli peace deal and that for several reasons, none of them being persuasive or remotely convincing. Some US sources claim that Netanyahu finds himself in a bin with the ongoing judicial reforms and is desperately seeking a big win on the diplomatic front. Other sources speculate that MBS cannot remain outside the Abraham Accords for too long because rivalries within the GCC and a continued Iranian threat, are sufficient reasons to force him to make peace with Israel.

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Our sources confirm that MBS and Netanyahu have met in Saudi towards the end of President Trump’s term. Jared Kushner played midwife in securing such a close and personal encounter. The meeting was a success on the personal front, and yielded several diplomatic coups for both sides, short of a peace accord. Saudi got covert intelligence cooperation and technical-military advice from certain Israeli agencies and companies regarding Iranian threats. Israel got a ‘no-boycott’ commitment from Saudi towards the freshly minted Abraham Accords and, the right for El Al flights to cross over Saudi on their way to Asia. However, both MBS and Netanyahu were too cautious -at such tumultuous time- to offer a win to the outgoing Trump and the incoming Biden, or vice versa, since the elections’ outcome was still up in the air. 

Today, this cautiousness remains and is accentuated by a US administration that squandered the chances for such a rapprochement, having started its Middle East charm offensive by downplaying the Abraham Accords! Both MBS and Netanyahu are today confronted, once again, with an upcoming US presidential election. Both leaders will weigh their moves and ask themselves to whom would they offer this ‘Holy Grail’ of international diplomacy? To a Biden administration that snubbed both leaders calling one a Pariah and refusing to meet with the other, for six months, after being re-elected PM? To an administration that prioritized, and still does, a rapprochement with Iran over its Gulf and Israeli allies? A US administration that criticizes MBS for his OPEC policy, done to boost his country’s major source of revenues, and Netanyahu for his judicial reforms, initiated to curb the Supreme Court’s overreach in domestic politics? In the meantime, Iran kills in Yemen, maims in Syria, undermines a government in Iraq, overtakes a State in Lebanon, and ignites Gaza, and get no such opprobrium from the Biden administration and its cronies. Instead, Iran gets Robert Malley, the chief US diplomat in charge of the Iranian file, nearly caught red-handed for passing on confidential information to the Iranian regime.

In fact, it is the Biden administration that is spreading this rumor of a supposedly imminent Saudi-Israel peace deal. The reason being its dire need for a victory on the international front after a series of setbacks orchestrated by China and, to a lesser extent, by Russia. China has brokered the unexpected diplomatic truce between Saudi and Iran, which in today’s Middle East, has a far larger impact than resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict. This ‘truce’, no matter how ephemeral it might end up being, was a masterstroke by Beijing that outdid all the efforts of the Biden administration at courting Tehran and castrating Riyadh.  China secured more than a foothold in the Middle East; it has rather planted a flagpole. Furthermore, Iran’s active and public military support to Russia in the Ukrainian war has been another blow to an enfeebled US administration who for a moment, although a delusional one, thought to bring the Mullahs in from the cold and gradually into its sphere of influence, or at minimum, into neutral territory.

Biden needs this peace -as Carter did before him in 1978- more than either MBS or Netanyahu who short of having signed a peace treaty, are very much at peace regarding their mutual interests and relations. The US presidential elections will see a frantic diplomatic activity from Foggy Bottom’s emissaries who will undoubtedly make outsized promises and bring large, gift-wrapped pledges. A new security agreement with Saudi with the support for the latter to start its civil nuclear program. A reset of relations with Bibi without interference in Israeli politics and with a clear common strategy to stop the Iranian nuclear program, militarily. However, none of these US promises will ring true and none of the regional leaders will take them at face value. Both leaders, MBS, and Bibi, will comfortably wait for the dust to settle on the US presidential elections before making a move. Both have learned patience: MBS, while waiting to become King and Bibi, while staging his comeback as PM. Both, who live in a desert, understand how during a sandstorm one should rather save his energy and not quicken his pace. 

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Some of Biden’s handlers must think of themselves very clever to spread such a rumor, which recalls a quote by Napoleon Bonaparte that is so fitting for this situation: “Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence”. 

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