Talks are reportedly underway between U.S. and Saudi officials about the terms of a mutual defense treaty modeled after the strong military pacts the United States has with its allies South Korea and Japan.
The pact is said to be a key part of President Joe Biden’s diplomatic efforts toward getting Saudi Arabia to normalize relations with Israel, with the United States and Saudi Arabia to provide military support if there is an attack in the Middle East on either country or in Saudi territory, reports The New York Times.
According to Saudi officials, a defense agreement would deter attacks by Iran or its armed partners, even while the two countries are working to re-establish their diplomatic ties.
Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, considers a mutual defense agreement the most important part of discussions with the Biden administration about Israel, according to current and former U.S. officials.
The crown prince also wants the U.S. to help Saudi Arabia develop a civilian nuclear program, but some U.S. officials are concerned the program could be used to cover up a nuclear weapons program against Iran.
Meanwhile, a mutual defense pact is likely to face objection in Congress, where some lawmakers, including top Democrats, believe Prince Mohammed and the Saudi government do not care about U.S. interests or human rights and would make unreliable partners.
The agreement would also increase concerns about whether President Joe Biden is getting the United States more involved militarily with the Middle East while contradicting the administration’s goals of concentrating on deterring China and steering U.S. military resources away from the Middle East.
The talks with Saudi Arabia are expected to surface more on Wednesday when Biden meets with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
During his UN speech Tuesday, Biden said nations would benefit by normalizing ties with Israel.
Meanwhile, the United States has a strong military presence in Japan and South Korea, but officials said that a potential pact with Saudi Arabia has led to no discussions about placing a large number of American troops there.
According to a letter the White House sent to Congress in June, there are just under 2,700 U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia.
But even though Biden pledged during his presidential campaign in 2020 to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah,” a diplomatic pact between Israel and the Saudis could defuse tensions between the two nations, and a treaty between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. could pull the Saudis further from the influence of China, which is attempting to expand its efforts in the Middle East, according to officials.
Last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken that normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel would be a “transformative event in the Middle East and well beyond,” but reaching an agreement “remains a difficult proposition.”
Sandy Fitzgerald ✉
Sandy Fitzgerald has more than three decades in journalism and serves as a general assignment writer for Newsmax covering news, media, and politics.
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