Connect with us

Middle East

Threading the Needle: Turkey’s East-West Balancing Act




Over the course of the last decade, Turkey has distanced itself from the West, both through its domestic politics and foreign policy. At the same time, however, Turkey has managed to avoid coming into Russia’s orbit, maintaining its essential ties to the West. Under Erdogan, we see an interesting phenomenon where Turkey has managed to strike a balance between East and West, distancing itself enough from both to avoid falling entirely into their orbit.

The implementation of this is interesting: a NATO member state that is host to U.S. nuclear weapons while it purchases weapon systems from Russia at the same time. This is merely one example where Turkey has managed to establish itself as more than a geographical bridge between East and West, but a political one as well, which has allowed it to pursue a largely independent foreign policy.

There are four major areas in which Turkey has managed to set itself apart from Russia and/or the West: Syria, arms sales, the South Caucasus, and Ukraine. This balance is of the utmost importance for Turkey, both to establish itself as a major independent regional player and to maintain its essential trade ties with Russia, the EU, and the U.S. The ongoing confrontation in Ukraine is perhaps the biggest test of this balance yet, but Turkey seems to have the capacity to maintain it so far.

First, it must be understood that Turkey’s balance has a certain uniqueness in that despite aggravating both East and West, it manages to avoid any real consequences from either. Of course, Turkish foreign policy that is independent of East and West cannot be discussed without mention of Syria. The Syrian Civil War was a watershed moment for Turkish foreign policy: simultaneously aggravating the United States and Russia while increasing Turkey’s influence and perception as a regional power. This began with military assistance for Syrian rebel groups, evolved into direct military action against both Russian-backed and US-backed forces, and eventually led to the Turkish occupation of Northern Syria. While the rise of ISIL provided at least one area of mutual interest there, Turkey’s objectives were ultimately against those of both the United States and Russia.

On the point of Russia, the issues began with Turkish assistance to Syrian rebels fighting Assad’s government from the beginning of the war. As Russia’s support for Syria increased, so too did the potential for confrontation with Turkey. The most direct form of this confrontation was the 2015 shootdown of a Russian jet near the Turkish-Syrian border, the first and only post-Cold War case of a NATO member state shooting down a Russian jet which led to a crisis in bilateral relations. Despite the personal relationship between President Putin and President Erdogan which did much to normalize relations and the accommodation that Russia and Turkey eventually reached in Syria, it remains a problematic area for their bilateral relations. The ‘condominium’ deal that Turkey and Russia have reached in Syria has managed the interests of both parties to some degree but it has served more to prevent escalation and open confrontation than to reach a consensus between them. While highlighting joint patrols since the ceasefire agreement, Russia openly accused Turkey of violating the agreements made in Syria when Turkey launched another offensive against Syrian government forces in 2020. At the same time, Turkey makes these same accusations about Russian-backed forces. Thus, the significance of the accommodation reached can be overstated if one does not consider that there are inherent limits to cooperation in this situation, where the states support opposite sides of a conflict. To support this point, Turkey has previously stated that its objective is to change the regime in Syria, something that is incompatible with Russia’s objectives in the country. Barring a significant policy change on either side, Syria will continue to be an area in which there is more opportunity for tension rather than collaboration between Turkey and Russia.

Confrontation with Russia in Syria does not necessarily mean that Turkey is on the same page with the United States there. As mentioned above, Turkey has established itself as an independent actor in Syria rather than a pro-Western one. The previously stated objective of Turkey in Syria is not opposed to the wishes of the West. Moreover, the US and Turkey support some of the same armed groups in Syria. When it came to Turkey’s 2015 shootdown of a Russian jet near the Turkey-Syria border, the U.S. voiced its support for Turkey’s right to defend its airspace and generally accepted Turkey’s account of the events preceding the shootdown. In more recent years, however, Turkey has found itself at odds with the West as well when it comes to the war in Syria. While the U.S. and Turkey have supported some of the same armed groups, such as the Free Syrian Army, the U.S. and its partners most strongly ally themselves with the Syrian Democratic Forces, which the Turkish government has labeled a terrorist organization. As such, while there are proxy conflicts between Turkish-backed and Russian-backed forces, there are also conflicts between these two groups and Western-backed forces. The tensions emerging from this came to a head when the Turkish armed forces announced an offensive in Northeastern Syria where U.S. forces were operating alongside their Kurdish allies. In what was seen as a major blow to American credibility, President Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces, leaving the Kurds to defend themselves against the Turkish offensive. In response to losing this diplomatic game of chicken, the United States imposed some sectoral sanctions on the Turkish government. A Russian negotiated ceasefire eventually allowed for the sanctions to be lifted and the SDF was required to withdraw from their positions. Though the sanctions were lifted, the damage to U.S.-Turkey bilateral relations had already been done. Additionally, this offensive not only caused issues with the United States but other Western countries as well. Leaders in the EU, for instance, have accused Turkey of attempting to weaponize some 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to obtain leverage over Europe. As such, we can identify that Turkey’s policies regarding Syria have provided some of the biggest points of contention between the West and Turkey while at the same time they continue to be a contentious area between Russia and Turkey as well.

When discussing American tensions with Turkey, the S-400 missile system purchase must be discussed. Turkey opted to purchase the S-400 missile system from Russia rather than the Patriot missile system from the United States. This purchase made Turkey subject to American sanctions under CAATSA. On top of this, the United States suspended Turkey from the F-35 program, claiming that operating the S-400 alongside the F-35 would expose its classified technology to Russia. Though the United States later softened its position on arms sales, offering to sell Turkey the Patriot missile system if it would not make the S-400 system operational, Turkey continued to go ahead with the S-400 system. As reimbursement for excluding them from the F-35 program, the US is in talks to provide Turkey with new F-16 fighters along with upgrade kits for Turkey’s existing fleet of F-16s. If this deal goes through, it may alleviate some of the tension between the US and Turkey, even as Turkey announced that they will go ahead with purchasing a second batch of S-400s. If this deal stalls, however, it would be reasonable to assume Turkey will seek other options like the Su-35 or Su-57 from Russia which subject Turkey to further sanctions and exacerbate the decline of US-Turkey relations. While this diplomatic crisis between the U.S. and Turkey in the arms sector allows for the strengthening of Turkey’s ties with Russia, arms sales provide an area in which Turkey has shown the propensity to cause tensions in its relations with Russia as well.

Turkish-made arms have increasingly found themselves on the opposite side of a conflict as Russian equipment, and this trend goes beyond Syria. The growing Turkish arms industry has made a name for itself in the post-Soviet space, and this is not due to a close relationship with Russia. In this area, Turkey frustrates its relationship with Russia in two ways: by its interference in Russia’s “near-abroad” and through the usage of the arms that it provides. In the South Caucasus, like Syria, Turkey’s East-West balance is struck again by pursuing goals that are contrary to the objectives of both the U.S. and Russia. In Nagorno-Karabakh, the United States and Russia both attempt to be generally neutral mediators, supporting people’s right to self-determination, the principle of territorial integrity, and the non-use of force. Turkey sets itself apart from this area of rare agreement between the U.S. and Russia through its complete and overt support of Azerbaijan. Through political support as well as through the provision of material, Turkey has encouraged Azerbaijan to be more assertive in resolving this conflict. During the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Turkey supported Azerbaijan materially with drones and other military equipment as well as politically through their rhetoric in regard to the conflict and Azerbaijan’s choice to realize their territorial claims through the use of force.

In terms of Turkish support for Azerbaijan, there are multiple points of tension with Russia. Arms provisions are one significant factor in Turkish equipment’s usage against Russia’s CSTO ally Armenia. The weapons provided by Turkey were showcased in the 2020 conflict by their effectiveness against Armenian equipment which was supplied by Russia. Turkish supplied drones in particular were seen to have played a major role in Azerbaijan’s combat operations as well as in the information space. Turkey’s relationship with Azerbaijan has been a boon to its influence thus far and has given Turkey inroads into Russia’s near abroad. Despite the fact that Russia has managed to accommodate some Turkish interests here, the impact is still a more multipolar, less stable, post-Soviet space which creates a more challenging scenario for Russia. Though this Turkish involvement could certainly be viewed as preferable to American involvement, it remains that the increase of Turkish influence in the Caucasus exerts some pressure on Russia.

In this case, what is negative for Russia is not necessarily viewed as a win by the United States. The US has clearly stated that it wants Turkey to stay out of the conflict. Moreover, the U.S. has generally accepted Russia as a “lead mediator” in this conflict and has shown a willingness to tacitly support Russia’s peacemaking efforts. Thus, Turkey’s disruption of the Russia-led status quo is not only a problem for Russia, but for the United States as well. As is the case in Syria, Turkish involvement in this conflict causes tension with both the U.S. and Russia, which allows Turkey to position itself as an independent actor. In other areas of the post-Soviet space, however, the tensions from Turkey’s independent foreign policy are more one-sided.

Though Turkish inroads in the Caucasus are certainly significant for Russo-Turkish relations, perhaps the most significant issue for the two at present is Turkey’s relationship with Ukraine. As previously mentioned, Turkish arms in the post-Soviet space frustrate Russia on two counts: interference in the “near-abroad” and the usage of those arms. It is in Ukraine that Turkey’s balancing act faces its greatest challenge. Turkey has pursued partnerships with Ukraine in a variety of areas including military cooperation. Though Turkey has attempted to reassure Russia by stating that cooperation with Ukraine is not meant to target Russia, this partnership continues to antagonize Russia now more than ever. In 2021, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated that Turkish arms exports to Ukraine were considered to be a “serious issue”, and these deliveries have continued over Russia’s objections. Today, the issue has become even more significant for Russia as these arms are not being used just against Russian-supported forces, but against the Russian armed forces themselves. As the armed confrontation between Russia and Ukraine proceeds, Turkey has continued to sell weapons to Ukraine. It is imperative to recognize the significance of these shipments as inherently different from other areas in which Turkish equipment finds itself being used against Russian equipment. While in Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh Turkish equipment is being used against Russian-backed forces, in Ukraine they are being used against Russian forces themselves. From Russia’s perspective, Turkey is knowingly providing Ukraine with weapons that will be used to kill Russians. Though Turkey has attempted to assuage Russian anger by clarifying that military hardware sent to Ukraine is sales rather than aid, it is unlikely to make their provision any less of an issue. Indicative of this, the Russian ambassador to Turkey voiced Russian anger at these deliveries, dismissing the “business is business” explanation on the grounds that the drones were being purchased for the express purpose of killing Russian soldiers.

Taking such statements into account, we can identify a disconnect between Turkish and Russian perceptions of these arms shipments. Turkish arms provisions are no longer just frustrating but have an added personal dimension for Russia with which Turkey does not identify. As the military confrontation in Ukraine progresses, the arms issue will continue to be a sticking point for Russo-Turkish relations while at the same time it provides an area for Turkey to collaboratively engage with the West. In addition to the issue of arms supplies, Turkey has voted to condemn Russia at the United Nations and decided to close the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits to military vessels. With all of these factors in mind, it is clear that Turkey can be categorized as pro-Ukraine, but this is not to say that Turkey is completely in the Western camp when it comes to the issue of Ukraine.

Despite the arms shipments to Ukraine, Turkey still positions itself as an independent foreign policy actor in this situation. Turkey has separated itself from other NATO members as the only member state that has not placed economic sanctions on Russia. Turkey also is not providing military aid to Ukraine, hence their clarification that the drone shipments are sales, not aid. Moreover, Turkey has an ongoing high-level dialogue with Russia on issues such as the evacuation of cities and has expressed its willingness to mediate. Turkey has also hosted talks between the representatives of Russia and Ukraine, while they also attempt to organize a high-level meeting. Turkey manages to do all of this while also offering to trade with Russia in rubles and discussing alternatives to SWIFT. Although Turkey should certainly be considered pro-Ukraine, we can see it does not mean that Turkey is entirely anti-Russia. Even in this precarious situation, Turkey is able to strike at least some kind of balance between East and West.

Turkey’s East-West balance has improved its global standing and with it, Turkey has positioned itself as a major player in the region. A balance such as this is hard to strike and, since February 24th, will be more difficult to maintain. As of right now though, Turkey seems to have the capacity to navigate the added difficulties. While the West seeks to pressure states that continue to have good relations with Russia, Turkey manages to largely avoid such pressure and condemnation. At the same time, Turkey has managed to stay off of Russia’s “unfriendly countries and territories” list and is notably the only state to provide weapons to Ukraine that is not on this list. Taking these factors into account, it appears likely that Turkey will be able to procure a second batch of S-400s, continue to provide support to Ukraine, and maintain its strong trade relations with Russia by using the ruble all while facing few consequences from the West or Russia. Given such trends, it appears that not even the situation in Ukraine can tip the balance that Turkey has struck. Maintaining this balance will be essential for the sake of Turkey’s regional interests and the sake of its economy. Moving forward, the developing geopolitical situation will give Turkey less room to navigate but, thus far, Turkey has shown it can manage an East-West balance.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Middle East

Dynamic diplomacy: From SCO to BRICS



Image source: Tehran Times

The tree of Iran’s balanced foreign policy approach is on the verge of being a one-year-old child. Stronger than before, Iran is pursuing dynamic diplomacy in a variety of cities such as Doha, Ashgabat, and other capitals. Baghdad will also join the list soon.

While Iran’s top negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani is engaged in intensive negotiations in Qatar with the United States through the European Union delegation, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and his oil and foreign ministers are in Ashgabat pursuing transit diplomacy as well as the legal regime of the Caspian Sea with the littoral states. 

Prior to his departure for Ashgabat on Wednesday, Raisi spoke to reporters about the purpose of his visit to Turkmenistan. 

“This visit is taking place at the invitation of the esteemed president of the brotherly and friendly country of Turkmenistan in order to attend the Caspian Sea littoral states summit,” he remarked.

The President called the Caspian Sea a common heritage and capital for the littoral states with more than 270 million people. 

“We have good relations with the littoral states of the Caspian Sea, but in addition to reviewing the legal regime of the Caspian Sea and peaceful use of the sea for the purpose of improving security at the sea, what will be discussed at the sixth summit of the Caspian Sea littoral states is cooperation between countries in the fields of transport, transit, trade, management of marine living resources, environment, as well as preventing the presence of outsiders in the sea, which is also agreed upon by all coastal countries.”

Prior to the beginning of the summit, Raisi met Serdar Berdimuhamedow, Turkmenistan’s President, as well as Chairman of the People’s Council of Turkmenistan, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow.

During the meeting with the President of Turkmenistan, Raisi pointed out that the implementation of the memoranda of understanding and cooperation documents signed by the two countries during Berdimuhamedow’s recent visit to Tehran will accelerate promotion of cooperation between the two countries.

Later, Raisi met with the Azerbaijani President, Ilham Aliyev. 

During the meeting, Raisi reminded Aliyev that the presence of the Israeli regime in any part of the world undermines security there.

The president also had a brief meeting with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the summit. 

There’s little doubt that Tehran has not put all its eggs into the basket of the JCPOA revival, as it actively seeks to establish trade relations with the neighbors. It’s short-sighted thinking to assume that Iran has to wait for the United States to return to the JCPOA, while it can enjoy the benefits of regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), or BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). 

On Monday, Iran’s former Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh, who was holding his last presser, told the Tehran Times correspondent that Tehran has submitted a membership request to the BRICS secretariat via Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian. While dynamically trailing balanced and active diplomacy with the neighbors, Tehran is awaiting Washington’s serious political decisions to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Source: Tehran Times

Continue Reading

Middle East

Qatar’s pragmatic foreign policy and its global clout



Please use the sharing tools found via the share button at the top or side of articles. Copying articles to share with others is a breach of T&Cs and Copyright Policy. Email to buy additional rights. Subscribers may share up to 10 or 20 articles per month using the gift article service. More information can be found at President Ebrahim Raisi held talks with Qatar’s emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani in Doha in February, the first visit by an Iranian president to Qatar in a decade © Qatar News Agency

Iran and the US resumed talks for the revival of the Iran Nuclear Deal 2015/Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in Qatar, with mediation from the European Union (EU) on June 28, 2022. These talks which carried on for two days ended without making any progress.

EU Chief Josep Borrell had visited Iran, last week, and held talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, with regard to resumption of talks. Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian had said last week that Tehran was prepared to resume talks, as long as it received the economic benefits of the 2015 accord. After his meeting with the Iranian Foreign Minister, Borrell tweeted:

   ‘In a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian we agreed on resumption of negotiations between Iran and US in the coming days, facilitated by my team, to solve the last outstanding issues’.

The stumbling blocks between Iran and other signatories to the revival of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal have been ; Iran’s expansion of its nuclear program, and its removal of 27 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cameras. The US, France, the UK and Germany introduced a resolution which censured Iran for this step. Apart from this, Iran has also been demanding that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) be removed from the US’ foreign terrorist organisation list, something Washington has been resisting. Israel has also been opposing the Iran nuclear deal (though it has recently changed its stance and has said that it is willing to accept a deal which threatens the security of the Middle East).

While sections of the Iranian media were critical of the talks held in Qatar, a senior Iranian diplomat said that they were held in a professional atmosphere, and that Iran would explore ways of taking forward negotiations.

The US has been keen for a revival of the deal in order to keep global oil prices in check in the aftermath of the Ukrainian crisis. Iran has in fact been selling oil in spite of its sanctions to a number of countries (though China has reduced its purchase of oil from Iran, since it is importing from Russia at a much cheaper price). The US State Department while commenting on the talks held in Doha was critical of Iran, saying:

‘Indirect discussions in Doha have concluded, and while we are very grateful to the EU for its efforts, we are disappointed that Iran has, yet again, failed to respond positively to the EU’s initiative and therefore that no progress was made,’

One of the other important dimension of the talks was that they were held in Qatar. Qatar’s strategic clout has risen for a number of reasons in recent years; talks between the Taliban and the US, which began in 2020, were held in Doha, it played an important role in reducing tensions between Israel and Palestine in 2021, after the Taliban takeover, in August 2021, Qatar helped in the evacuations of US citizens as well as citizens of countries, and it has agreed to represent  US interests in Afghanistan since the US embassy in Afghanistan has closed. It would be pertinent to also point out that even before the Ukraine crisis, US has been asking Qatar to supply oil to Europe.

During the visit of Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani to the US in January 2022, US President Joe Biden announced that Qatar would be declared a major Non-Nato ally. In March 2022, a formal announcement was made in this context.

While post the Ukraine crisis, western countries have been looking to Qatar to fulfil their oil needs, the latter has also had close economic ties with Russia, the Qatar Investment authority holds a 19% stake in Russian oil company Rosneft.

Gulf countries and Qatar’s strategic clout

  Other Gulf countries, particularly Saudi Arabia had not been happy with Qatar’s strategic importance not just within the Middle East, but globally as well (in 2017, Saudi Arabia was one of the countries which had imposed a blockade on Qatar). In fact, Saudi Arabia’s reset of ties within the Middle East, including ties with Turkey and Iran, has been attributed to Qatar’s increasing diplomatic clout in the Middle East. UAE too has been keeping a close watch on Qatar’s rise, and Taliban’s decision to hand over the management of airports in Herat, Kabul and Kandahar, to Abu Dhabi-based firm GAAC Solutions is significant in this context (this was a surprising move since Taliban had been in talks with Turkey and Qatar for management of airports)

Qatar’s role in the talks, even though they have not been successful,  will once again help in raising its strategic clout. It is the only GCC country which shares cordial ties with Iran and this was one of the reasons why a blockade was imposed on it by Gulf countries in 2017.

While Qatar would have wanted the recent negotiations between Iran and other signatories to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal to have been successful, the talks being held in Doha are a reminder of the fact that it is a crucial player not just in the Middle East, but globally. An independent foreign policy and the ability to not get stuck in a zero-sum trap has stood the country in good stead.

Continue Reading

Middle East

Saudi religious soft power diplomacy eyes Washington and Jerusalem first and foremost



Geopolitics is written all over Saudi religious soft power efforts. Nowhere more so than when it comes to Israel and Jews because of the growing importance of security cooperation with the Jewish state and the influence of the Israeli lobby in the United States, the kingdom’s most important yet problematic security partner.

In the latest move, Saudi Arabia ensured that it would be the first stop on the first overseas trip by Deborah Lipstadt as US special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

“Lipstadt intends to build on the profoundly important Abraham Accords to advance religious tolerance, improve relations in the region, and counter misunderstanding and distrust,” the State Department said in a statement. The department was referring to the accords by which the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan established diplomatic relations with Israel in the waning days of US President Donald J. Trump’s administration.

Ms. Lipstadt said that Saudi religious soft power diplomacy had created an atmosphere in which she could discuss with government officials and civil society leaders, who in the kingdom inevitably are likely to be linked to the government, “normalising the vision of the Jews and understanding of Jewish history for their population, particularly their younger population.”

Saudi Arabia has had a particularly troubled attitude towards Jews even though an older generation of Saudis in regions close to Yemen recall a Jewish presence in the first half of the 20th century.

Moreover, in the days when Israelis were barred from travelling to most Arab countries, Saudi Arabia also tailored its visa requirements to bar Jews.

European foreign ministers planning at the time to pay official visits to the kingdom would at times confront demands that Jewish journalists be dropped from the group accompanying the official.

Some American Jews who had filled out Jewish as their religion on Saudi immigration forms would have them returned with the word Jewish replaced by the term Christian.

That began to change long before the rise of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Mr. Bin Salman has accelerated the policy change. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia announced that Israeli business people would be granted entry into the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has also allowed Jacob Yisrael Herzog, a US-born rabbi resident in Israel, to visit the kingdom several times to attempt to build Jewish life publicly. Some Jewish critics have charged that his bombastic approach could backfire.

Moreover, in a slow two-decade-long, tedious process, Saudi Arabia has made significant progress in scrubbing its school textbooks of anti-Semitic and other discriminatory and supremacist content.

To project Saudi Arabia as a moderate forward-looking nation and improve the kingdom’s tarnished image, particularly in the United States, Mr. Bin Salman has met with American Jewish leaders. Many of those leaders are willing to give Saudi Arabia a pass on its abuse of human rights and still weak track record on religious tolerance to advance the cause of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The crown prince has also turned the Muslim World League, once a prime vehicle for the Saudi government funding of Sunni Muslim ultra-conservatism globally, into a public relations tool for propagating Saudi religious tolerance.

The league’s head, Mohammed al-Issa, a former Saudi justice minister, led a delegation of Muslim religious leaders on a ground-breaking visit in January 2020 to Auschwitz, one of Nazi Germany’s foremost extermination camps for Jews.

Earlier this month, he organized a Forum on Common Values among Religious Followers in Riyadh. Participants included 47 Muslim scholars, 24 Christian leaders, 12 rabbis, and 7 Hindu and Buddhist figures.

The timing of Ms. Lipstadt’s visit is significant. It comes weeks before an expected pilgrimage to Riyadh by President Joe Biden to tackle strains in the strategic relationship between the two countries.

Tensions have emerged over the degree and reliability of the US commitment to Gulf security, Saudi oil production policy in the wake of US and European sanctions against Russia for invading Ukraine, Saudi technological cooperation with China, and Mr. Biden’s belief that Mr. Bin Salman was responsible for the 2018 killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Moreover, the visits of Mr. Biden and Ms. Lipstadt come as hopes are fading that talks in Vienna between world powers and Iran will succeed in reviving the 2015 international agreement that curbed Iran’s nuclear programme. A failure is likely to increase regional tension.

The spectre of a failure has driven increased regional cooperation between Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and Israel.

At the sharp end of confronting Iran, Israel unveiled its newly adopted Octopus Doctrine this month. The doctrine expands Israel’s aiming at Iran’s nuclear, missile and drone programmes by increasingly attacking targets in Iran rather than primarily on battlefields like Syria.

Barbara Leaf, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs, put Ms. Lipstadt’s visit in perspective when she told Congress last week that Mr. Biden hoped to achieve agreement on a roadmap for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel during his visit to the Middle East this month. US officials admit that it will be a lengthy process rather than a head-on lovey-dovey affair, as was the case between Israel and the UAE.

Saudi Arabia has signaled for some time that it would like to formalize its expanding informal relations with Israel but needs a cover to do so. The kingdom has emphasized this in recent weeks as it sought Israeli acquiescence in the transfer by Egypt to Saudi Arabia of sovereignty over two islands at the top of the Red Sea and prepared for a possible visit by US President Joe Biden.

Saudis want to meet us, talk, and rub shoulders with us. They want to learn. I kept getting inquiries. There is incredible potential for cooperation between the Saudi people and Saudi companies and Israel,” said Israeli businessman Eyal Waldheim who visited the kingdom in May travelling on a non-Israeli passport.

Continue Reading