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Arab States Unlikely to Join Broad Military Defense with Israel Against Iran

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Iranian Sayyad 3 missiles

In an effort to re-charge the Abraham Accords launched by the Trump administration, Sens. Jodi Ernst (R-IA), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK) introduced the DEFEND Act, which calls for US leadership in supporting Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and Kuwait) to form a joint air and missile defense against Iran. The Biden administration will also visit Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinian Authority from July 13-16. His visit to Saudi Arabia will include a “GCC+3” summit that would reportedly include the leaders of Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and the members of the GCC.

But this grand summit faces some serious challenges. While the UAE and Bahrain are already coordinating with Israel on defense, the other GCC countries plus Iraq are quite far from such a possibility. And Saudi Arabian normalization with Israel is the Biden administration’s diplomatic breakthrough to lose.

Iraq seems far from any reconciliation with Israel. Iraq recently made it illegal for Iraqi citizens to have any ties with the Jewish State, a crime punishable by death or life imprisonment. The law is so egregious that even the State Department condemned it.

Kuwait continues to express outright hostility to Israel. Yes, it is refreshing to hear that a Kuwaiti editorial supported normalization with Israel and bashed the Palestinians, calling for the Gulf States to cut off aid to the latter. But Kuwait has shown little signs of changing its actual policy towards Israel. Kuwait recently banned maritime shipping between Israel and Kuwait, as well as the film Death on the Nile because it featured Israeli actress Gal Gadot.

Qatar is a long way away from joining the Abraham Accords, and any defense agreement that would involve Israel. In a welcomed diplomatic step, Qatar will allow Israelis to visit the country using Israeli passports to attend the FIFA World Cup. Israel will also propose an arrangement with Qatar where Israel would have direct flights to the country for the World Cup. While these are welcome developments, Qatar must abandon significant hostility to Israel like its support for jihadist groups and state-sponsored anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism before it can join any broader defense agreement with the Jewish State.

While Oman has clandestine ties with Israel, it has stated numerous times that it will not join the Abraham Accords. While warm to Israel, it also has a strong relationship with Iran which includes military cooperation. So, Oman joining a defense pact against Iran seems absurd.

The most likely country to join Israel, UAE and Bahrain in a defense pact against Iran would be Saudi Arabia, who has to its credit moved incrementally closer to normalization with Israel. US and Israel are reportedly in the midst of helping to broker the transfer of strategic islands in the Red Sea from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Both US National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk and State Department energy envoy Amos Hochstein were recently in Riyadh to help broker this deal. According to Axios, the Biden administration seeks to clinch a deal between Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel on these islands before the GCC+3 summit. The deal would also serve a two-fold purpose: 1) to advance normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel; and 2) to improve US-Saudi relations that have long been antagonized by the Biden administration’s anti-Saudi policies. Israel wants security arrangements regarding the islands, as well as access to Saudi airspace to Asia, in addition to direct flights for those seeking pilgrimages from Tel Aviv to Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia currently grants Israel limited access to its airspace for flights to the UAE and Bahrain.

And as the Wall Street Journal has reported, there have been a growing number of secret business and security discussions between the two countries. According to an Israeli newspaper Globes, “dozens” of Israeli businessmen recently traveled to Saudi Arabia using special visas and their Israeli passports. This report further alleges that Israeli businessmen have been travelling to Riyadh and the future location of Neom, a planned hi-tech city, for months. The Globes article further mentions that Israelis and Saudis have already signed “a number of agreements” which each other, “including a multi-million dollar deal in the agriculture tech sector and a second deal for an Israeli water tech solution.”

The greatest hope for a broader Gulf defense agreement with Israel against Iran would be if Saudi Arabia joins the UAE and Bahrain in normalizing ties with Israel, with one or more countries following suit. Israel and Saudi Arabia have made strides towards normalization. But the Biden administration must follow its shuttle diplomacy with reversals of numerous counter-productive anti-Saudi policies. It must climb down the tree it planted when it accused MBS or orchestrating Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, without presenting hard evidence and ignoring Khashoggi’s checkered past. And it must support Saudi Arabia in its war against Iran’s proxies, the Houthi terrorists in Yemen. Only when America reconciles with Saudi Arabia can the region see a broadening of the Abraham Accords.

NOTE: Due to an editorial error an earlier draft of this story was posted, it is now updated. 

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China

China Ratchets Up Propaganda as Pelosi Prepares to Visit Taiwan

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Screen Shot 2021 01 11 at 8.29.28 AM

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi looks like she is moving forward with her planned visit to Taiwan, China is ratcheting up its propaganda war against Taiwan and the United States. Chinese government media is stating that Taiwan is part of China, China is prepared to use force over Taiwan, Chinese “countermeasures” to any visit by Pelosi will be severe, and the United States and Taiwan are the ones that are instigating conflict.

Chinese state-run media continues to claim that Taiwan is an integral part of the mainland. A Pelosi visit to Taiwan would “seriously harm China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” according to a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, as cited by XinhuaNet. A Global Times article cited a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as stating that Taiwan is an issue of “national reunification,” and “at the heart of China’s core interests.” Another Global Times article welcomed the possibility of China’s eventual intrusion into “the airspace above Taiwan” as “a legitimate and righteous move to manifest China’s sovereignty over the island.”

LISTEN TO #TheSaraCarterShow ON CHINA IN THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE 

Chinese government media also claims that China is prepared to use force over Taiwan. A Global Times article cites the above professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong as stating that “[r]eunification by force is the most effective way to prevent Taiwan secessionism.” Another Global Times article cites “an expert on US studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,” as claiming that China threatened “the possibility of extremely drastic diplomatic and military measures against the US [if Pelosi visits Taiwan], and the US cannot afford to face such a response.”

Chinese state-run media further specifies this hypothetical use of force if Pelosi visits Taiwan. Pelosi’s visit would result in an “overwhelming response” that would result in “a game-changer for cross-Straits relations,” according to Global Times. Potential responses from China would include PLA aircraft escorting Pelosi’s plane into Taiwan, “set[ting] a great precedent for the PLA to patrol above the island,” according to a Global Times article. Another Global Times article, citing a “Chinese military expert,” floated the idea of the Chinese military declaring Taiwan a PLA drill zone, and intercepting planes flying over Taiwan in the event that Pelosi visits Taiwan [meaning, establishing a “no-fly” zone]. This military expert further suggested that China’s PLA Rocket Force could similarly conduct “drills” targeting US ships.

And according to Chinese government media, it is the US and Taiwan that are at fault for the current crisis over Taiwan. According to China Daily, Pelosi’s visit would demonstrate that the US is “trying to seize the initiative to change the status quo across the Straits, and use the island as a launch pad for confrontation with China. Another China Daily article remarked that the potential for Pelosi’s visit shows that the “Taiwan question [is] being recklessly hijacked by Washington politicians” and that “[s]ome of the more hawkish US politicians have been unable to hide their glee that…[Pelosi’s visit] might lead to a military clash.”

Chinese state-run media is also asserting that the US and Taiwan are unprepared for any situation in the Taiwan Strait. The US is “semi-paralyzed and divided” and “politically weak,” according to Global Times. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called for visiting Taiwan with Nancy Pelosi, is a “‘marginal figure’ with limited funding” and a “troublemaker,” according to Global Times. Taiwan’s recent Han Kuang military drills “are more of a show rather than anything of military significance,” according to a “Beijing-based military expert” as cited by Global Times.

Chinese government media continues to peddle an anti-US and anti-Taiwan narrative. With this narrative, China hopes to justify, for domestic and international consumption, an attempted confrontation or invasion of Taiwan. As the global supply chain, semi-conductors, and peace in the Pacific hang in the balance, the Biden administration needs to counter Chinese aggression in both word and deed.

You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic

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