Obama, Iran May Pull Israelis and Saudis Closer

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Saudi King Salman Bin Abdulaziz waves to crowds in photo in Daily Times, Pakistan.

Islamic State (ISIS) aggression, the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and President Barack Obama’s policies are changing the face of Mideast alliances, potentially creating covert or multinational Saudi ties with Israel, an expert of Saudi political and security affairs says.

Dr. Michal Yaari of the Britain-based Open University told the Israeli news service Arutz Sheva that Israel and Saudi Arabia share security concerns but impediments block any open collaboration.

“There are definitely people who oppose the relationship. For them the issues over Israel’s occupation [of Judea and Samaria] and the Temple Mount are too much,” said Yaari, referring to Israel’s presence on the holiest site in Judaism.

As the custodian of Islam’s two holiest cities–Mecca and Medina–it apparently would seem odd for Saudi Arabia to be lenient about Israeli control over Jerusalem, which Islam sees as its third holiest city.

“Saudi Arabia is very limited in what they can do. Things can change in the context of a regional agreement [dealing with an Iranian threat]; not a bilateral agreement but a multilateral one,” Yaari says.

“Saudi Arabia is very angry with the United States for hurting the Kingdom’s interests: the way it supported Mohammed Morsi and opposed Hosni Mubarak; the way it did not follow through [with military action] against Syria over chemical weapons, and now how it is leaving Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”

 —Dr. Michal Yaari of the Open University


 

The newspaper says: “Most experts feel the relationship between the two countries on the security side is steady even if well out of the public’s view. In Israel, the rumors of such a relationship tend to offer some excitement. Take for instance Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s effort to invite Arab ambassadors to his recent Congress address in Washington.

Those invitations apparently were a bit too overreaching, but there was some very public agreement, at least with the ideas expressed in his speech, by Saudi newspapers. That support does not reflect public sentiment giving Israel some benefit of the doubt, but it does show the Saudi government is willing to let a newspaper publish something positive about Netanyahu in order to make a point about Iran.”

“Saudi Arabia is very angry with the United States for hurting the Kingdom’s interests: the way it supported Mohammed Morsi and opposed Hosni Mubarak; the way it did not follow through [with military action] against Syria over chemical weapons, and now how it is leaving Iran as a nuclear threshold state,” says Yaari.

She notes that the two nations cannot have open relations but are united against Tehran and upset with the policies of the President Barack Obama’s administration.

According to Yaari, Saudi Arabia is going to the beat of their own drum right now, but that does not mean Saudi Arabia can really punish the United States when it is so dependent on security ties with it.

“There is no other country that can protect Saudi Arabia like the United States. None. The Saudi experience with the United States recently has been a bad one. They are particularly concerned about America’s power being compromised,” she notes. “If the United States were to send more forces to Iraq to fight ISIS [Islamic State], then the Saudis might take American policy more seriously.”

The Saudis are stockpiling armaments in case of incursions by ISIS and Islamic militants in Yemen and the threat of a nuclear Iran.

In response to recent reports about Saudi Arabia permitting Israel use of its airspace to attack Iranian nuclear installations, Yaari speculated that such a move would not necessarily spark direct military retaliation from Tehran against Saudi Arabia.

She says, “Saudi Arabia is not particularly concerned about an Iranian attack per se. They are more worried about their reputation.”

“Their primary concern is a Shi’ite bomb that strengthens Iran’s regional aspirations,” Yaari explained.