By Mohammad Mazhari

GSA: Riyadh, Tel Aviv unhappy over possible transformation from ‘maximum pressure’ to ‘maximum diplo

April 11, 2021 - 15:38

TEHRAN - Chief executive officer of Gulf State Analytics (GSA) says that both Saudis and Israelis in a “tacit partnership” are worried about a revitalization of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. 

“Saudi Arabia and Israel both share major concerns about the possibility of Biden’s administration transforming Washington’s Iran foreign policy from “maximum pressure” to “maximum diplomacy,” Giorgio Cafiero tells the Tehran Times.

Iran and the remaining members of the nuclear deal, officially called the JCPOA, plan to continue talks on the nuclear deal especially after they first held a virtual meeting on April 2 and then agreed to hold talks in Vienna on April 7. They also held talks in Vienna on April 9. The sides also agreed to meet in the coming Wednesday. The talks are being arranged by the European Union as the coordinator of the JCPOA Joint Commission.

However, some regional regimes, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia which seems to have formed a secret alliance, are really unhappy with a diplomatic solution when it comes to Iran.

“Both the Saudi and Israeli governments believe that former President Donald Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ on Tehran needs to stay and should not be eased until Iran drastically changes many aspects of its foreign policy,” the DC-based consultant adds.
Following is the text of the interview:

Q: How do you read the recent events in Jordan? Was there a coup attempt?

 A: This month’s palace turmoil in Amman has created much confusion and widespread concern about the future of stability in Jordan. Nonetheless, at this point, no evidence proves that there was a coup attempt in Amman. In any event, as conflicting reports which push rival narratives keep on coming out, there are many observers who will likely continue framing this month’s wave of arrests in Jordan as part of a successful effort to prevent a coup in the country. Yet skepticism is warranted. Foreign policy experts as well as Arab and Western diplomats have expressed doubts that any coup attempt took place. Various analysts have suggested that the purported threat of a destabilization plot was part of the state’s efforts aimed at quieting critics of the government against the backdrop of major economic and COVID-19-related problems in the country.

“Despite Riyadh and Tel Aviv not having official diplomatic relations, they maintain a tacit partnership.”Personally, I believe it is important for observers to hold off on reaching conclusions until more concrete information becomes available. The situation in Amman remains quite unclear.

 Q: Was it a coup like what happened in Turkey in 2016?

 A: Unlike the case of Turkey in 2016, there was no evidence of any plot to carry out a physical coup in Amman this month. There were no elements within Jordan’s military or police that even purportedly took part in this alleged destabilization plot whereas many individuals within the Turkish state’s security institutions did play a role in the deadly efforts to overthrow Turkey’s government in July 2016. This is all to say that the situations in Turkey nearly five years ago and Jordan this month are extremely different.

 Q: Qatar announced its support for Jordan. Is it a signal that Qatar may confront Saudi Arabia again in regional developments?

A: I would not reach this conclusion. Since the al-Ula agreement’s signing in January, Riyadh and Doha’s relationship has warmed up significantly. While Qatar did indeed announce its full support for Jordan’s King Abdullah II, so did the other five (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council member-states. Doha was very much in alignment with most Arab governments when it came to providing official and immediate support to the Jordanian head of state in the aftermath of this alleged plot to destabilize the Hashemite Kingdom. 

 Many pundits have speculated about foreign powers being involved in this purported plot targeting Jordan’s security. However, there is currently no proof that Saudi Arabia or another Arab country in the Persian Gulf had a hand in this episode which was possibly a strictly Jordanian affair. Other commentators have pointed their finger at Israel. But given the closeness between Israel’s military and the Jordanian security apparatus, there seems to be good reason to seriously question claims that the Israeli government tried to destabilize its Arab neighbor which signed a peace treaty with Tel Aviv 26 years before the Emirati, Bahraini, and Moroccan governments did.

Q: What approaches do the Biden administration follow toward Arab countries? 

 A: Joe Biden’s presidency has prompted certain states in the Middle East (West Asia) to begin seeking ways to partially reconcile with rivals and adversaries while ‘agreeing to disagree’ in the interest of cooling regional tensions. Concerns which countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt have over Biden’s presidency have prompted these governments and others to recalibrate somewhat and find ways to relax frictions with their regional rivals and adversaries against the backdrop of uncertainty vis-à-vis Washington. The GCC’s al-Ula summit, which resulted in the lifting of the blockade imposed on Qatar in mid-2017, was a salient example of this trend. Also, the thaw in Egypt’s relationships with Turkey and Libya's UN-recognized government are other cases in point. Turkey’s outreach to Israel is another.

 Q: Do you agree with the view that Saudi Arabia and Israel have formed an alliance to contain Biden's possible attempts to approach Iran?

 A: Saudi Arabia and Israel both share major concerns about the possibility of Biden’s administration transforming Washington’s Iran foreign policy from “maximum pressure” to “maximum diplomacy”. Both the Saudi and Israeli governments believe that former President Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” on Tehran needs to stay and should not be eased until Iran drastically changes many aspects of its foreign policy. The possibility of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) being revived deeply unsettles the Saudi and Israeli governments, which fear that such a development would undermine their geopolitical and security interests in the Middle East (West Asia) in ways that provide the Islamic Republic with unique opportunities to expand and further consolidate its clout across the region. Despite Riyadh and Tel Aviv not having official diplomatic relations, they maintain a tacit partnership. Without any doubt, the Kingdom and Israel’s shared interests in working to dim the prospects for another partial thaw in U.S.-Iran relations factor heavily into the Saudi-Israeli relationship.

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