US and Saudi officials are advancing talks for a “mutual defense treaty” that would resemble broad agreements Washington maintains with Japan and South Korea, according to officials who spoke with the New York Times.
“Under such an agreement, the United States and Saudi Arabia would generally pledge to provide military support if the other country is attacked in the region or on Saudi territory,” the NYT report reads.
The security pact is part of a so-called “megadeal” that would be sealed between Washington and Riyadh in exchange for the kingdom normalizing ties with Israel.
“Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) … regards a mutual defense agreement with the United States as the most important element in his talks with the Biden administration about Israel,” the NYT cites US officials as saying.
The NYT report was published the same day US President Joe Biden extolled the benefits of normalization with Israel during his speech at the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
“Israel’s greater normalization and economic connection with its neighbors delivering positive and practical impacts even as we continue to work tirelessly for just and lasting peace, for Israelis and Palestinians, two states for two peoples,” Biden said.
His talk of a two-state solution echoed comments from Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan on Monday when he stressed that the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is an “independent Palestine.”
“The solution to the Palestinian issue must be based on the two-state solution and the establishment of the Palestinian state in accordance with international resolutions. We seek to bring the conversation about the two-state solution back to the forefront,” the kingdom’s top diplomat told reporters on the sidelines of the 78th UNGA session in New York City.
Last week, Saudi media reported that the kingdom had allegedly ended talks of normalizing ties with Israel over inflammatory comments from Jewish-supremacist ministers within the Israeli government who vehemently oppose making concessions to the Palestinians. One day later, however, US and Israeli officials called the report “false.”
If approved by two-thirds of the US Congress, the security pact would be a reversal from a 2021 move by the US to remove Patriot missile batteries from the kingdom as it prepared to incite an armed conflict with Russia and China.
Nonetheless, according to a White House letter sent to Congress in June, the US has about 2,700 troops stationed in Saudi Arabia. These troops have recently been conducting expanded counter-drone drills with the Saudi military.
“Over the last 16 months, we worked very closely with our Saudi counterparts to develop their counter-UAS [-drone] tactics, techniques, and procedures … Our objective for this exercise was to shoot down [drones], dawn till dusk,” Colonel Robert McVey, the US Central Command’s (CENTCOM) director of the Red Sands Integrated Experimentation Center, told Al-Monitor on Tuesday.
Thu, 09/21/2023 – 23:00