Riyadh-Tehran deal: A blow to Israel, a slap in the face for the US | middle East

For a country used to being behind almost everything significant that happens in the Middle East, from war to peace, the agreement for a resumption of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, reached under the auspices of China, was certainly difficult. to sue by the United States. In Israel, the announcement may not have been well received either, and not just because it is a development that lessens Iranian isolation. After all, despite persisting significant obstacles, the Government of Benjamin Netanyahu had assumed the objective of signing a peace agreement with the monarchy of the Persian Gulf.

“This is a brilliant attack by China and Iran to undermine Saudi-American relations and normalization between Saudis and Israelis,” said Mark Dubowitz, president of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies. , an institute that has been linked to neoconservatives and promotes a hard-line US foreign police.

Netanyahu, Israeli newspapers recalled, had decided to raise expectations about normalization with Riyadh to underline his foreign policy credentials. Progress towards normalization with Sunni Islam’s leading power would be especially welcome at a time when it faces major protests against government policies. Taking into account his own weaknesses, the veteran prime minister wanted anything but to confirm that Washington is no longer the undisputed influence in the region.

Considering that the agreement announced in Beijing last Friday will have “caused considerable consternation” in the US and Israel, analyst Maha Yahya writes in site from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that “the role played by China was a slap in the face to the Joe Biden Administration”, while “undermining the Israeli objective of creating a regional alliance against Iran”.

The historic Abraham Accords, launched with the normalization pact between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (Bahrain followed soon after, and later Sudan and Morocco), which Netanyahu celebrated in 2020 as a strategic victory, were a “strategic nightmare for Iran” (as they wrote in the magazine Foreign Policy Maysam Behravesh and Hamidreza Azizi). The next step, which has been being prepared with Washington, was such an alliance – of Sunni powers and Israel – to isolate and neutralize Iran, with its nuclear program in support of active Shiite militias in several countries in the region.

Despite the “consternation” caused, Yahya hopes that the agreement will have important consequences and underlines that, “for the first time in many years, it seems that something is changing” in the region. The director of Carnegie’s Middle East Center sees in this agreement “the reflection of a general fatigue with the conflict in the region and a desire of the regional actors to take the lead in defining the future of the Middle East”.

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