The peace of Abraham in Purgatory
Why does the Middle East challenge Riyadh’s goals of war?
The peace of Abraham in Purgatory, according to Iran Gate, puts pressure on the conflict between Hamas and Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other countries in the Persian Gulf region, and also threatens the normalization of relations with Israel and regional stability. It should be noted that not only the Abraham Accords are at risk, but also the regional tension reduction policy between Saudi Arabia and Iran will be affected by the new war between Hamas and Israel. It is a potential destructive conflict for the balance of power in the Middle East, whose military borders are still unclear.
Of course, Israel’s very strong reaction to Hamas’ terrorist attack will put pressure on Arab governments in the Persian Gulf region, especially if the siege of Gaza is to continue for a long time. It will create more anger in the Arab public opinion. But it is still too early to consider the Abraham Accords as concluded, an agreement under which the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain recognized Israel in 2020, and this also applies to the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
This war will slow down the historical process, but it is expected to continue at least as an informal conversation, as it is the result of a broader strategic plan that has been facilitated by the change of generation of rulers in the Gulf Arab countries.
For Saudi Arabia, this war signifies a very delicate change in foreign policy and also a leadership test for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who currently cannot openly take a position towards Israel, as negotiations between the two countries had progressed to the point where Mohammed bin Salman had announced two weeks ago in an interview with an American media outlet that we are getting closer to an agreement every day, and normalizing relations is a key objective for the Saudi kingdom.
Beyond the call for de-escalation, there are multiple voices among the Gulf monarchies.
The response of the Gulf monarchies to the Hamas-Israel war has not been the same. Both sides have called for moderation and restraint, but the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signatories of the Abraham Accords, preferred to focus more than anything on the concern for the situation of non-combatants and hostages. Additionally, the UAE is currently a non-permanent member of the Security Council.
Saudi Arabia has reminded Israel of the danger of the explosive situation caused by its occupation policies and has not explicitly condemned Hamas’ actions so far.
The official statements of Kuwait and Qatar towards Israel were very harsh, with Doha accusing Israel of being solely responsible for escalating tensions. Since 2014, Qatar has provided significant economic aid to the Gaza Strip and has even hosted some political leaders of Hamas, including Ismail Haniyeh. It also has a strong communication channel for dialogue with the Palestinian quasi-military movement and with Iran.
Why does Israel harm the economy of Saudi Arabia and Iran? United States and Iran: Why is there a war?
The war between Hamas and Israel will harm the regional interests of Saudi Arabia for at least three reasons. The first reason is the normalization of diplomatic relations with Israel. Mohammed bin Salman is using the possibility of recognizing Tel Aviv to renegotiate the special relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Saudi Arabia aims to obtain the necessary security guarantees from the US in the event of an attack on Riyadh and Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program for non-military purposes. The suspension of diplomatic negotiations with Israel will slow down the progress of these two issues that Saudi Arabia is interested in, especially at a time when Iran and its affiliated non-state actors are increasing the regional threat level.
The second reason is the economy. The ongoing unpredictable war between Hamas and Israel poses a risk of escalation for Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies that have prioritized economic development. However, there is a potential benefit for the Riyadh treasury in terms of a possible increase in the price of crude oil barrels.
However, the 2030 vision or the Saudi plan for post-oil economic transformation requires regional stability because this project is based on foreign investment in infrastructure and important events and tourism. On the other hand, this involvement can lead to the resumption of opposition and intergovernmental competition, weakening the space for dialogue and economic cooperation in the region.
The third reason is Iran’s involvement, which plays a role that has been trained by Tehran and is also financially and militarily supported. If the Islamic Republic’s responsibility in designing this complex attack is confirmed by Hamas to Israel, the foundations of tension reduction between Saudis and Iranians will be at risk, even if other armed actors supporting Iran like Hezbollah in Lebanon and Shia paramilitary groups in Syria get involved or carry out significant attacks. We will face a situation where the regional tension reduction policy is more at risk.
In a contract signed in China in March 2023, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed not to interfere in each other’s affairs. However, the aggressive role of pro-Iranian paramilitary groups and their missile arsenals, even before Tehran’s nuclear power, is a real concern for Riyadh and Gulf countries as they destabilize the region.
Saudi Arabia is aware of two realities
For the Middle East, this war is a Pandora’s box, according to Greek mythology, filled with all the unknown sorrows and fortunes of humanity. For Saudi Arabia, this conflict will be a test of political maturity for Mohammed bin Salman, with regional and domestic consequences. The Crown Prince must demonstrate strong leadership and try to balance opposing forces, combining traditional support for the Palestinian cause with Saudi Arabia’s current objectives, based on understanding and awareness of both realities.
The first issue relates to Islamic extremism and Islamist terrorism, on which the war between Hamas and Israel can reignite this extremism even in other countries. Saudi Arabia has previously experienced this between the 1990s and early 2000s, when Saudi Al-Qaeda targeted foreign interests and security forces, and even attempted to assassinate Mohammed bin Nayef, the then Deputy Minister of Interior in 2009, although the assassination plot was unsuccessful. This is a fundamental and important matter for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is trying to redefine Saudi identity by weakening its religious connotations.
The second awareness is the centrality of defending national borders. In recent years, Saudi Arabia has experienced a completely different scale of attacks compared to Israel, which includes missile and drone strikes on its soil. The war in Yemen, which worsened with Saudi Arabia’s military intervention, has resulted in a series of Houthi attacks against Saudi targets.
And then there was Iran’s attack on Saudi Aramco in 2019. The United Arab Emirates also experienced attacks in early 2022, carried out by young individuals. For Riyadh, Abu Dhabi, and the Gulf monarchies, national security is now more prioritized than ever before, as non-state armed groups supporting Iran pose a threat that needs to be contained.
These two understandings and awareness, along with economic and leadership reasons, make Saudi Arabia’s abandonment of the Abraham Accords an unthinkable hypothesis. Although it has become a more challenging goal than a few days ago, with an unpredictable war on the horizon, there is still the possibility of continuing the path of negotiations and agreements.
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