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Abraham Accords Waning as Iran, Allies on the Rise

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The Abraham Accords, where the Trump administration clinched normalization deals between Israel and the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan, have stalled recently. Saudi Arabia is growing cold to a deal with Israel, while warming up to Israel’s enemies. Syria, a long opponent of Middle East peace, is emerging from diplomatic isolation. And the Abraham Accords, built in part to contain Iran, seem to have failed to do so given recent events.

Saudi Arabia Growing Cold to Israel…

Saudi Arabia, after some promising developments towards normalization with Israel, now seems further away than ever from joining the Abraham Accords. Saudi Arabia has recently suspended talks with Israel on a deal that would secure Hajj flights for Israeli Arabs in the wake of recent tensions on the Temple Mount and distrust of Saudi Arabia with Israel’s new right-wing government. The flight deal had been brokered by the Biden administration, and as of now the administration is unable to clinch it. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is hosting the Palestinian Authority this week, throwing a diplomatic lifeline to the PA and undermining Israel’s sovereignty in Judea and Samaria in the process.

…While Warming to Iran and Its Satellites

In a direct affront to the Abraham Accords, the US, and Israel, Saudi Arabia has established diplomatic détente with Iran and some of its clients in rapid succession.

Iran. Saudi Arabia has made a peace deal with Iran, brokered by China. Iran has restored its embassy in Riyadh, which had been closed for seven years, and the two countries are in talks to restore Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran. The White House has admitted that it was not directly involved in the Saudi/Iran talks. This week, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman received an invitation to visit Iran.

The Houthis. Saudi Arabia is also entering into talks with the Houthis, an Iranian terrorist proxy group who has attacked Saudi Arabia incessantly and whose slogan is “Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse the Jews, Victory to Islam.” According to an unnamed Yemeni government source, Saudi Arabia and the Houthis have agreed to a six-month truce which will hopefully yield a two year transition period for Yemen. The two sides have also exchanged 973 prisoners since Friday.

Hamas. There are unconfirmed reports that Saudi Arabia is hosting a Hamas delegation this week. Saudi Arabia is reportedly poised to meet with Hamas to re-establish diplomatic ties for the first time since 2007. This visit allegedly includes top leadership of Hamas, and Hamas is reportedly looking to use this trip to unwind the Abraham Accords and Israel’s ties with the Arab world as a result. These developments, if true, are shocking given Saudi Arabia’s ban on the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ progenitor, in 2014.

Syria. Saudi Arabia and Syria are working towards restoring embassies and flights, as Saudi Arabia cut off ties between the two countries back in 2011 due to its opposition to Bashar Assad in the Syrian civil war. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister is visiting Syria this week, Syria’s foreign minister recently visited Saudi Arabia, and a recent Arab summit in Saudi Arabia has discussed Syria rejoining the Arab League.

Syria Emerging from Isolation

Syria is emerging from its isolation, having recently scored major diplomatic wins in addition to its warming ties with Saudi Arabia. Tunisia, rumored to be courted by Israel to join the Abraham Accords, has re-established relations with Syria. The two countries will be re-establishing embassies after Tunisia similarly boycotted Assad almost a decade ago. Syria is also courting Islamist Algeria for improved ties (Algeria maintained ties with Syria during Syria’s civil war). Additionally, Syrian President Bashar Assad visited the UAE, a signatory of the Abraham Accords, for the third time in two years last month. Syria’s foreign minister recently stated that Syria would emphasize growing bilateral relations with Arab states.

A Resurgent Iran

Despite the Abraham Accords, Iran is increasing its threats to Israel. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) coordinated rocked attacks carried out by both Hamas and Hezbollah from Lebanon during Passover. In fact, Hamas is gaining a larger foothold in Lebanon, and was able to fire at least 36 rockets into Israel from Lebanon, with assistance from Hezbollah. This marked the largest rocket attack on northern Israel since 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. Israel warned the United Nations about Hamas’ foothold in Lebanon at least as early as 2018. Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah met in Beirut this month, demonstrating further coordination between the two terrorist groups. While the Shah’s son, Reza Pahlavi, is in Israel on a goodwill trip promoting peace between Iran and Israel, it is unclear how much power Pahlavi has within Iran to effect change.

Conclusion

The Abraham Accords have recently taken a significant hit with an emboldened Iran, a Saudi Arabia that is tilting away from the US and Israel and towards Iran and its allies, and a much less isolated Syria. The Biden administration must make bold, conciliatory moves to convince countries like Saudi Arabia and Indonesia to join the Abraham Accords. According to Senator Lindsay Graham, given the 2024 election cycle fast approaching, the Biden administration will have a limited amount of time to clinch a deal with Saudi Arabia (and any other country, for that matter). The Biden administration must also develop an effective deterrent policy against Iran’s nuclear program and its ambitions in the region. Absent such dramatic policy shifts, the Abraham Accords, and the prospects of durable peace in the Middle East will continue to erode.

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International

Report: North Korean ballistic missile fired by Russia into Ukraine contained components sourced from U.S.

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A new report from Conflict Armament Research (CAR), a U.K.-based investigative organization, determined that a North Korean ballistic missile which was fired by Russia into Ukraine contained “numerous” electronic components sourced from the U.S. and Europe.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported on the findings, noting approximately 75% of the 290 components analyzed in the missile originated from U.S.-based companies, and an additional 16% of components came from European firms, according to the CAR report.

The electronic components came from 26 countries in total and were largely utilized in the missile’s navigation system, according to the report. It isn’t clear how the components ended up in North Korea’s possession, as the country is strictly sanctioned by a bulk of the international community, but it’s possible other foreign companies, acting as middlemen, bought the components and then diverted them to the communist country.

However, the fact that North Korea was able to acquire so many American electronic component parts suggests “that the country has developed a robust acquisition network capable of circumventing, without detection, sanction regimes that have been in place for nearly two decades,” according to the report.

CAR documents “weapons at the point of use and track their sources back through the chains of supply.”North Korea gathered the components, assembled the missile and shipped it to Russia, all within a relatively short time period, according to the report. The missile was recovered by CAR on Jan. 2, and the investigators determined it could not have been manufactured before March 2023.

The U.S. government and intelligence agencies are working to stop sensitive American intellectual property from ending up in the hands of several foreign adversaries. North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Russian President Vladimir Putin have strengthened their relationship since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

“Due in part to our export and sanction controls, Russia has become increasingly isolated on the world stage, and they’ve been forced to look to like-minded states for military equipment,” White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman John Kirby said during a press briefing in January. “One of those states is North Korea.”

 

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