December 2, 2022

American allies in the Middle East pressure Biden to come up with strategy for containing Iran

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During a visit to Washington earlier this month, Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Khalid bin Salman – the brother of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – told Biden’s senior national security officials that he was glad the United States had re-established Saudi ties. Are coming on Said familiar with the conversation.

“The situation with Iran is heating up,” a senior administration official said, referring to the country’s recent decision to remove some of its nuclear surveillance cameras and covert, aggressive Israeli operations inside Iran’s borders. The navy said in a statement on Monday that three Iranian ships had “unsafely and unprofessionally” targeted a pair of US Navy ships approaching 50 yards of the US Navy in the Strait of Hormuz.

“This is a big part of why we need to make this journey – our allies want to know that we are serious about tackling this,” the official added.

At the moment, however, the prospects for a new deal are “weaker, better,” said US-Iranian envoy Rob Mele He testified before the Congress last month. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.

An NSC spokesman told CNN: “We are committed to close consultation with our regional partners on US policy towards Iran, and broadly, we are committed to regional security and stability issues between the countries of the region. Support dialogue. “

Lawmakers, regional partners and allies have called on the White House for more information. But the administration has remained silent.Beware of derailing sensitive nuclear talks.

Sources familiar with the talks said that the administration has indicated that it will maintain economic pressure on Iran and that if the agreement is reached, the implementation of sanctions will be increased. The United States is also working to build a regional alliance against Iran, urging Gulf states to coordinate all their air and missile defense systems against Iranian attacks. The move has the backing of US lawmakers from both parties, but has not yet garnered the support of all Gulf states.

US officials do not believe Biden is fully responsible for stopping Iran, however, and hope to hear from his Middle East partners during the president’s visit to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia next month. What more can they do to influence Iran? Behavior, officials said.

Israel, meanwhile, appears increasingly ready to take matters into its own hands. Several current and former intelligence officials told CNN that the country’s intelligence apparatus has stepped up its covert attacks on Iranian nuclear targets and scientists, leaving the United States largely in the dark about it.

The Gulf states are less concerned about nuclear weapons than Israel, and more concerned about how easing sanctions on the nuclear deal could fund Iran’s other nefarious activities.

“The Gulf wants to feel that the United States stands with them, but the biggest question now is whether the United States can be trusted,” said Ali Shahabi, a Saudi activist near Riyadh who often Represents the point of view of the government of the country. “Saudi Arabia wants the United States to be as involved as possible in stopping Iran, so this will be a debate that will dominate the GCC-Biden meeting.”

The Biden administration is divided on the seriousness of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Some current and former US intelligence officials believe that Iran’s main goal is relief from sanctions, and that its leaders are willing to take advantage of the threat of further nuclear development.

Others believe that Iran really wants to build a nuclear weapon, because the country’s leaders have noted how North Korea and Russia, both nuclear-armed states, are exposed to direct Western intervention, such as attacks and regime changes. Have managed to escape.

The fair told lawmakers last month that when it comes to ensuring that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon, there is “nothing” to add to the military operation. But he reiterated the US position that “the only real solution here is diplomacy.”

An NSC spokesperson reiterated this position. “We remain committed to diplomacy as the best and most sustainable way to address our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program,” the spokesman said.

Signs of growth

U.S. intelligence and military officials are watching closely for signs of tensions between Iran and Israel ahead of Biden’s visit to the region, as Israel has stepped up targeted killings and other gray zone operations inside Iran in recent months. Is.

Jonathan Pankov, head of the Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council and former deputy national intelligence officer for the Middle East, said Israel did not yet have a strategic plan to end Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In the National Intelligence Council, “it is hoped that through various strategies it will be able to maintain this pressure and continue to delay Iran’s progress.”

A US official and other sources briefing CNN confirmed that Israel was behind the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Colonel Sayyid Khudai in Tehran last month, as reported for the first time. New York Times. The Israeli embassy did not return requests for comment.

Two Iranian scientists were also killed in late May, in which Iran publicly accused Israel of deliberately poisoning them. Also in late May, a drone strike on Iran’s Parchin military complex killed an Iranian engineer and another IRGC member who fell off a balcony.

Israel does not inform the United States of its actions in advance, and often never acknowledges its role – even privately. Officials from the Biden administration, in turn, have resorted to a wide-ranging crackdown on Israeli operations, several current and former officials familiar with the talks between the two countries told CNN, and from Israel. He was not asked to knock directly.

Officials said that although the traditional war between Iran and Israel is unlikely to break out, the miscalculation is likely to spiral out of control.

Iran has raised its aerospace defense force alert level in response to recent Israeli actions, an official said – something that authorities see as a possible indication that Iran is preparing for retaliation.

“The more pressure the Israelis exert – especially if the Iranians decide that the JCPOA is over – the more the Iranians will back down,” Pankov said.

Authorities are also concerned that Iranian rhetoric is becoming more serious, as the Iranian government appears to have begun linking recent Israeli attacks to the government’s survival.

Concerns over possible Iranian tensions have led to wider diplomatic exchanges between Israel and the Gulf states, which have normalized agreements with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Several officials said that due to the poor security environment, Israel has put a lot of pressure on Biden to visit Saudi Arabia and meet with the Saudi Crown Prince, and Biden is expected to fly from Tel Aviv to Riyadh in Air Force One. Will fly extraordinarily rare live. Middle East next month.

“Many of our partners strongly feel that the US-Iran policy is naturally making them less secure,” said a congressional aide familiar with the debate. “And when you link this policy to the withdrawal from Afghanistan, the limited sale of arms, the deep embrace of the Abrahamic treaties, which are advertised for the Indian Ocean – we have a lot of partner issues to take on. Are ready

The aide added that some countries could start looking for other partners, such as China, to deal with the Iranian threat.

Shahabi echoed that sentiment. “Ultimately, American politics is very unstable,” he said. “And if the monarchy and others have learned anything, it’s that they can’t put all their chips on America.”

This story has been updated with additional feedback.

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