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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Saudi Arabia-Iran-China deal & implications for US Middle East strategy

US faces wake-up call with China-brokered Saudi Arabia-Iran deal. Impact on Gulf dynamics, petrodollar, and Israeli normalization

The recent Saudi Arabia-Iran deal, brokered by China, has highlighted the evolving dynamics in the Gulf region and the growing role of Beijing in the area. For the United States, this deal not only signifies a potential challenge to its influence in the Middle East but also impacts its competition with China on a global scale. Additionally, the prospect of Middle Eastern countries accepting the yuan for oil exports to China poses a threat to the longstanding dominance of the petrodollar and the US dollar’s status as a worldwide reference currency. In light of these developments, there has been much discussion about the potential for an Israeli normalization deal with the Muslim world. However, the complexities of Israeli politics and the deeply ingrained Palestinian cause have led to numerous challenges.

Optimistic American Stance on Israeli Normalization

The US has expressed optimism about the prospect of an Israeli normalization deal with the Muslim world. However, it is essential to recognize that Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations have consistently prioritized the Palestinian cause as a central tenet of any discussions with Israel. This issue holds significant importance in the Islamic world, making it challenging for these countries to prioritize normalization over their commitment to the Palestinian cause.

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Complex Task for the US

The US has attempted to exert pressure on Israel to make concessions for the sake of normalization. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s primary focus is on appeasing his domestic constituency rather than catering to foreign powers. He cannot afford to risk upsetting his voter base, especially the ideological factions that prioritize territorial claims over any prospect of normalizing relations with Muslim countries.

Israeli Political Landscape and Netanyahu’s Dilemma

The Israeli political landscape is characterized by delicate balances, as evident from the narrow margin by which Netanyahu’s coalition won the last election. His alliances with far-right allies were a strategic move to secure a majority, and severing ties with them now could lead to the loss of his premiership. Moreover, replacing them with more moderate factions may not guarantee their support or prevent the need for another election.

Limits of US Influence in Israel

Despite providing substantial aid to Israel and leveraging its veto power at the UN Security Council, the US faces limitations in exerting control over Israel’s decisions. Israel has proven its ability to manage without significant US assistance. While economic benefits from normalization may enhance prosperity, they may not be compelling enough to sway ideological settlers who firmly prioritize retaining control over the West Bank.

Security Concerns and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Netanyahu’s approach to handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been marked by the use of coercive measures to maintain control. While the pro-peace camp warns of potential unrest, Netanyahu’s government has been successful in pacifying the Palestinians, at least for the time being. From a security standpoint, Netanyahu may not view meaningful concessions as necessary to achieve the American plan for normalization.

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The recent Saudi Arabia-Iran deal and the potential for Israeli normalization with the Muslim world have raised significant questions about the extent of US influence in the Middle East. However, the realities of Israeli politics and the deeply entrenched Palestinian cause present formidable challenges to these aspirations. As the region continues to evolve, the US must navigate carefully to strike a delicate balance between its interests and the complexities of the Middle East, in order to retain its influence on the global stage.