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It's Complicated

Israel and Saudi Arabia’s back channel diplomacy

Israel and Saudi Arabia’s back channel diplomacy

israel saudi

The oft repeated ancient proverb ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend’ is fairly new to English vernacular (first recorded in 1884) yet the concept is found in a Sanskrit treaty dating to around the 4th century BC. Ironically, it has been suggested that the proverb is of Arabic origin.

Plentiful examples in recent history demonstrate how this concept has lead to world altering geopolitics:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill joined Joseph Stalin to destroy Hitler’s Third Reich.
  • After the Iranian revolution the United States supported Saddam Hussein with arms to fight the Iran/Iraq war.
  • The United States supported the Mujahideen after Russia invaded Afghanistan.
  • As the United States fought Japan in the Pacific, Russia fought Japanese expansion efforts in Mongolia and North Korea.

Today, the worlds greatest threat is global warming Iran. Yes, ‘reformers’ like Hassan Rouhani state they ‘agree’ to the Iran Deal, while simultaneously calling for ‘death’ to America and Israel. Verbiage alone would not be so problematic, but they are in fact sponsoring terrorism against ‘Great and Little Satan’.

Talking out both sides of their mouth seems acceptable to President Obama, as he dismisses Iran’s inflammatory statements as ‘political theater’ to placate the masses. Wonder where he learned about that? If Obama spoke about Iran in the same way he speaks of Republicans, maybe he wouldn’t have championed a capitulation set of agreements which would have made Nevil Chamberlain queasy.

Those who monitor the situation beyond what left-leaning sycophant mainstream media spew, know Iran is still funding Hamas and Hezbollah’s terrorists adventures into Israel. Iran is still supporting Syria’s Bashar al-Assad, still supporting Shiite militias in Iraq and still supporting the Houthi minority in Yemen. In other words Iran’s words are meaningless.

If you like your national security, you can keep your national security.

Yet even in the face of Iran funding radical Islam, the supporters of the P5+1 deal with Iran would suggest 2 things:

  1. Iran has changed! They have come to the table. Our toothless, iron clad, unenforceable agreement doesn’t matter, it’s the intention that counts!
  2. What’s the alternative? War? You imperialist war monger!
    (For more deranged justifications see Daily Kos, Slate, NY Times, DNC/Hillary2016 and Fox’s Shepard Smith.)

Now, after the world has obviously become ‘safer’ due to the anointed one’s efforts, Saudi Arabia’s execution of Shi’ite cleric Nimr al-Nimr is causing the sectarian split to deepen across the Middle East.

Bahrain and Sudan cut all ties with Iran, following Riyadh’s example the previous day. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Reuters Riyadh would also halt air traffic and commercial relations between the rival powers.

Israel (that tiny sliver of democracy surrounded by a sea of enemies) does not have diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia since the Saudis have lead efforts to prevent the Arab world to recognize Israel’s right to exist within its current borders. Riyadh even established the Middle East Regulation (MER) which mandates a reversion to Israels pre-1967 borders. This has lead to a cold war type stalemate and no official contact between the two countries.

Until the Iran Deal.

Enemy of my enemy: As the talks and runup to the Iran Deal was occurring, unofficial contact has been taking place between Israeli and Saudi representatives over the past two years. Through these talks the Saudis have permitted Israel an air corridor and air bases for rescue helicopters, tanker aircraft and drones in case Israel decides to bomb Iranian nuclear facilities. These concerns have been reported in multiple media outlets including the Sunday Times:

Israel, Saudi Arabia Cooperating to Plan Possible Iran Attack - Saudis would allow Israel use of air space and provide drones, rescue helicopters and tanker planes, report says.

Bloombergs Eli Lake states:

It's no coincidence that the meetings between Gold, Eshki and a few other former officials from both sides took place in the shadow of the nuclear talks among Iran, the U.S. and other major powers. Saudi Arabia and Israel are arguably the two countries most threatened by Iran's nuclear program, but neither has a seat at the negotiations scheduled to wrap up at the end of the month.

The not entirely Western friendly NEO has also chimed in on these meetings:

In particular, according to information of a Jerusalem Post correspondent citing diplomatic sources of both countries, since the beginning of 2014 there have been as many as five secret meetings between the Saudis and Israelis, in India, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Reports appeared in the Arab press that senior members of the Israeli security forces, including the head of Mossad, secretly visited Riyadh and held discussions there with their Saudi equivalents. Apparently there were even negotiations between the then director general of the Saudi Intelligence Agency, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, with senior officials of the Israeli secret services in Geneva.

The purpose of these mostly clandestine meetings is to create a mutual cooperation between the Arab countries and Israel to isolate Iran. These meetings continue to this day.

  • King Salman of Saudi Arabia commissioned prince and media magnate Al-Waleed bin Talal to start a dialogue with the Israeli intellectual community with the aim of reestablishing contact with the neighbouring country.
  • Prince Talal called on all inhabitants of the Middle East, which were torn apart by war, to end their hatred of the Jewish people. He also declared that his visit to Jerusalem signifies the beginning of ‘peace and brotherliness’ between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
  • Arab media reported that Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi confirmed that his country is ready to export ‘black gold’ to any place in the world, including Israel. Saudi Minister pointed out that the majority of the Arab world does not see any obstacles to trade relations.
  • The head of the Saudi Foreign Ministry Prince Saud Al Faisal declared at the world assembly of Islamic scholars in Jeddah: “We must reject planting hatred towards Israel and we should normalize relations with the Jewish state.
  • Dore Gold, mentioned above, told the news agency Bloomberg: “Our standing today on this stage does not mean we have resolved all the differences that our countries shared over the years. But our hope is we will be able to address them fully in the years ahead and Riyadh can become a strategic partner of the Jewish state”.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu calls the Iran Deal ‘a historical mistake’. Saudi Arabia has publically stated it considers the deal “a direct threat to its national interests”.

Considering these meetings are considered 'secret', the number of media outlets commenting are growing, including The Atlantic, Reuters, and Jeruselum Post (1), here (2), and here (3).

The Obama Administration is now playing defense. It is aware of the Saudis and Israeli complaints. It answers such complaints by continuing their political marketing campaign by assuring the world Iran will be watched closely by IAEA. Quietly, they have taken a page from the Obamacare Cornhusker Kickback and Louisiana Purchase by supporting the Arab peninsula and providing anti-missile systems aimed to protect the Saudis against Iran. The U.S. is also increasing it’s aid to Israel in addition to assisting Israel to improve the effectiveness of the Iron Dome.

These measures by the administration suggest that, beyond the obvious bribing of Iran’s neighbors to keep their anger over the Iran Deal down to a murmur, the actions tacitly convey Iran should not be trusted.

Israel is right to continue establishing back channel diplomacy with the Saudis and others on the Arabian Peninsula. Any opportunity to reduce the threat to Israel by those who seek her demise is a positive development, or a much needed silver lining to what is widely considered the worst diplomatic event of our lifetime.

The question remains, will the potential geopolitical changes in the Middle East lead to more stability, or would it increase the likelihood of a regional war that could metastasize across the globe?