The inter-state configurations in the Middle East are undergoing tectonic shifts. Some few years ago, one could hardly imagine any partnership between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Today, those two Middle East nations are coming closer in an effort to form an anti-Iranian alliance.
For the moment, they are acting on the sly, but their special services are so active in their contacts that they can no longer keep them secret.
Israel is extremely interested in such contacts. Its previous anti-Iranian ally, Turkey, was pathologically afraid of engaging in any conflict with Iran – even though there were lots of pretexts for that. Unlike Turkey, Saudi Arabia has no fear and is firmly resolved to prevent Shia expansion in the Arab world.
A Saudi delegation, led by retired general Anwar Eshki, visited Israel quite recently. It was the first public meeting.
According to Haaretz, the delegation comprised Saudi experts and businessmen, who met with Director-General of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs Dore Gold, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (the West Bank), Major-General Yoav Mordechai and a group of Israeli MPs.
The official goal of the visit was to promote the Arab peace initiative to settle the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Haaretz notes that even though the delegation was not official, it would not be able to visit Israel without Riyadh’s permission.
The previous time Dore Gold met with Anwar Eshki was in the United States in the summer 2015 exactly when the world’s powers were close to signing the nuclear deal with Iran. It seems that the Palestinian problem is just a pretext for the sides to find some common grounds as their key goal concern is obviously Iran.
Former high-ranking army commander and Foreign Ministry official, Eshki is now the head of a Jeddah-based Middle East strategic studies center. Once Eshki was even advisor of Bandar bin Sultan, former Saudi intelligence chief. So, he is certainly familiar to Saudi Arabia’s secret activities. The ongoing Saudi-Israeli contacts are a warning for Iran and a signal for the United States that Saudi Arabia and Israel are ready to act against Iran even if they get no support from Washington.
Today, the Americans are much less anti-Iranian. They hope that the nuclear deal has “pacified” the Iranians, but the Israelis and the Saudis think otherwise. And their contacts are a hint that if the Americans wish to quit this game, they will not keep them.
The key anti-Iranian allies today are Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United States. Their key goal is to curb Shia expansion in the region. In fact, they don’t need any official structure – it will be an informal union.
In this union, Saudi Arabia needs Israel and Egypt’s military strengthens. The Egyptians have a strong army and a big navy. The Israelis’ forte is its powerful submarine force. Besides, they have one of the best intelligence systems in the region and enjoy strong support in the US Congress. Even more, both presidential hopefuls in the United States give the Israelis a high priority in their programs. And this is one more reason why the Saudis are so eager to cooperate with them.
In their turn, Israel and Egypt are attracted by the Al Saud family’s high influence in the Arab world, huge foreign exchange resources and certainly vast oil reserves.
The Arabs’ alliance with Turkey has failed as that country has faced lots of internal, army-related problems. The last coup attempt against Erdogan has made Turkish-Saudi relations even worse as has the Turkish president’s reluctance to act against Iran.
Some Middle East mass media are already rumoring about possible Israeli-Arab military contacts.
Israel has no military bases outside its territory. So, if offered a site somewhere near Iran, it might offer lots of services in exchange. According to some Arab mass media, recently the Israeli Ambassador to Jordan met with his Saudi counterpart and their key topic was the situation in Yemen. The Israeli Ambassador assured his colleague that Israel was ready to interact with Saudi Arabia in Yemen if given the air base near the Yemeni town of Taiz.
During the meeting Eshki also mentioned Greater Kurdistan and it was not a coincidence. Even more, the expert insists that this state cover all Kurdish areas in the region.
During a conference organized by the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington in June 2015, Eshki appeared with a plan of future Middle East and noted that Greater Kurdistan and peace with Israel were the key prerequisites for the plan to be realized.
Eshki sees Greater Kurdistan as a state embracing territories in Iraq, Iran, Syria and Turkey. He said that the Arabs and the Israelis were eager to establish peace in the region and that Greater Kurdistan was just one of the ways to restrict the ambitions of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. If formed, it may cover 1/3 of the lands of each of those four states.
If this plan is realized, Turkey will suffer the most. But this will hardly stop the Israelis and the Saudis as their outmost goal is to weaken the Iranian-Iraqi-Syrian Shia axis. And the Turks will have to put up with this plan as otherwise they will face new coups.
Now that Israel and the leading Arab players are facing more and more common enemies, there are beginning to have fewer and fewer contradictions. Their enmity towards Iran, Syria, Lebanese Hezbollah, Yemeni Shia rebels and Muslim Brotherhood overshadows their differences on the Palestinian problem. Today, they are as close to a dialogue as never before and this may result in a quadrilateral anti-Iranian alliance.
EADaily’s Middle East Bureau