U.S. and Saudi Arabia near potentially historic security deal

A landmark security agreement between the United States and Saudi Arabia is on the brink of being finalized. This pact, which President Joe Biden has ardently pursued, aims to pave the way for the Kingdom to take steps toward formalizing diplomatic ties with Israel, according to a well-placed source speaking with CBS News.

Detailed discussions spearheaded by Jake Sullivan, the U.S. National Security Advisor, with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the eastern city of Dhahran, have marked significant strides towards the deal. Saudi Aramco, the state-controlled oil behemoth, is headquartered in this strategic locale.

Details shared by the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicate the draft agreement is on the cusp of completion, as per an announcement made this past Saturday night.

The prospective accord is multifaceted, expanding U.S.-Saudi collaboration on defense and civilian nuclear capabilities. It comes at a juncture when China’s outreach in the Middle East threatens to shift regional power dynamics. Concurrently, the agreement intends to smooth the course for Saudi-Israeli normalization, albeit dependent on realizing the more challenging vision of a sovereign Palestinian state.

The architecture of the deal hinges on de-escalating tensions in Gaza and crafting a credible route to Palestinian nationhood, a sentiment echoed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Sullivan’s regional itinerary included a stop in Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, reflecting the administration’s commitment to pushing forward with the proposed framework.

Insiders familiar with the Kingdom have emphasized to CBS that any advance is predicated on the acknowledgement of Palestinian self-governance in the West Bank and Gaza. This issue has been propelled to the forefront due to international condemnation of the humanitarian impacts following hostilities in the Gaza Strip.

The political complexity in Israel adds to the uncertainty. Netanyahu’s well-known resistance to a two-state resolution contrasts with the internal pressures arising from disagreements within his war cabinet. Defense Minister Benny Gantz’s ultimatum regarding his participation in the government if decisive actions are absent underscores this tension.

The Biden team holds optimism that Netanyahu might seize the strategic benefits of Saudi reconciliation as an incentive to compromise on Palestinian matters, even at the risk of fracturing his already tenuous coalition.

Back in America, the ticking clock of the Congressional schedule adds pressure for deal ratification. Recognizing the wariness towards Saudi Arabia due to human rights concerns, the source acknowledged a window of opportunity for a Democratic president to secure an understanding which would extend to nuclear arrangements.

Parallel diplomatic endeavors by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham, a proponent of the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords, underscore the bipartisan nature of the interest in expanding the Mideast peace framework – an effort that Trump himself may revisit should he triumph in upcoming elections.

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