American and Saudi officials are discussing a defense alliance similar to the security agreements that exist between the United States and its allies Japan and South Korea, as part of the American diplomatic attempt to arrive at a normalization agreement between Saudi Arabia and Israel, US officials told the New York Times.
Under such an agreement, the United States and Saudi Arabia would commit to providing military assistance if the other country is attacked in the region or on Saudi territory. The East Asian model for a defense alliance that the countries are discussing, which are considered the strongest that the United States has outside of alliances with European countries, have not previously been reported, according to the Times in its report on Tuesday.
At the beginning of the week, the Saudi newspaper Elaph reported that the United States had informed Israel that Saudi Arabia had decided to stop talks with the Americans regarding normalization and not to take any steps toward normalization with Israel. US officials denied the report, saying that the talks are continuing.
Current and former US government officials said that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, considers a defense alliance agreement with the United States to be the most important element in the talks with the Biden administration regarding Israel. Saudi officials said that a strong defense alliance would help deter potential attacks by Iran - even though the two countries recently renewed diplomatic relations.
The crown prince also asked the Biden administration for assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program, but US officials fear that this will be a cover for the development of a nuclear weapons program.
In any case, if the Americans do reach an agreement with Saudi Arabia on a defense alliance similar to the one with its East Asian allies, this will likely draw strong opposition in Congress. Senior congressmen, including from Biden's Democratic Party, see the Saudi government and bin Salman as untrustworthy partners who do not care about American interests or human rights at all.
The report of a defense alliance based on the Asian model was reported shortly after US President Joe Biden's speech to the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, during which he referred to US efforts to establish normalization agreements between Israel and Arab countries including Saudi Arabia.
The Times report was released as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu began a round of meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA, which include German Chancellor Olaf Scholtz, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan all on Tuesday, and a meeting with Biden on Wednesday. Mossad head David Barnea is accompanying Netanyahu to the meetings to provide an intelligence review on Iran.
The Prime Minister's Office said in a statement that the meetings revolve around the "strategically significant issues that concern the security of the State of Israel and its citizens, primarily the fight against Iran's quest to develop nuclear weapons, the expansion of its attempts to spread terrorism in the world, as well as the negotiation of an agreement with Saudi Arabia."
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is expected to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority next month. Blinken's advisor on the Middle East, Barbara Leaf, announced his expected visit during her meetings in Israel last week. Leaf was sent to prepare Blinken's visit.