The single greatest threat to Iran is an alignment between the Sunni Arab states – nominally led by Mohammed Bin Salman’s (MBS) Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – and the Benjamin Netanyahu-led Israel. Despite American President Joe Biden’s best, partisan efforts, to overturn the historic Trump Administration’s Abraham Accords, the Saudis and Israelis were aligning.
That is, until this past weekend when Iranian-backed Hamas militants invaded southern Israel and moved quickly to terrorize as much of the bucolic Israeli countryside as possible.
More than 700 Israelis have been confirmed dead, with many more presumed dead. Even worse, over 100 innocents have been kidnapped by the Hamas militants. And by “innocents” I mean the most innocent: small children, elderly people, and women. It is likely to increase significantly over the coming days and weeks.
The attacks against Israel have been designed to ensure that Netanyahu’s government will have no choice but to respond to the viciousness and savagery of the attacks. But Israel finds itself in a conundrum. It needs regional partners. Sadly, the only likely partners are Arab states that are not entirely fond of Israel.
Gaining Saudi Arabia as a security partner could have potentially rejiggered the regional order in Israel—and America’s favor—against the likes of Islamists, the Russians, and the Chinese. But now Netanyahu’s government must militarily respond.
The only question is how severe and for how long should the Israeli military response last.
A Security Dilemma
Israel’s conundrum is that the harder and longer its military response is against the population of Gaza, where Hamas is based, and where they plotted their attacks against Israel, the less inclined the Saudi government will be to work with Israel.
The reason is less because MBS and his advisers are anti-Israel and more because they fear their own Arab population.
On October 9, late in the day, as Israeli soldiers were amassing outside of the Gaza Strip, it seemed that the public face of the Israeli-Saudi rapprochement had been put to bed. MBS made a statement that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands with the Palestinians.
While not an explicit end to the Israeli-Saudi rapprochement, it was a clear signal to the Netanyahu government that any attempt to avenge themselves upon their vicious neighbors by the Israelis would be met with not only the resistance of Palestinians but also the Saudis.
MBS fears his own people, just as his predecessors did in Riyadh.
After all, since the Grand Mosque seizure in 1979, when Islamists took over the Grand Mosque at Mecca and started massacring everyone there, demanding that the Saudi royal family abandon their throne and elevate “true believers” as their replacements, the Saudi royal family funded Islamists.
They did so less because they believed the Islamists were correct (though, some of the lower-level royals in Saudi Arabia certainly did) and more because they realized most of their population was at least sympathetic to the jihadist cause.
It was only after al Qaeda, itself a Saudi-led terrorist organization, bit the hand that fed them in 2003 when the organization launched a series of brutal terrorist attacks within the Kingdom—breaking the tacit deal that had long existed between Riyadh and the Islamists—that the Saudis began fighting terrorism in earnest.
Still, the Saudi regime’s fear of their own people has never desisted.
They understand the price of siding too publicly with Israel at present (even though I suspect MBS and his allies in Riyadh do, in fact, support normalization of relations with Israel).
The breakdown in the potential Israeli-Saudi security alliance is a boon both for Iran as well as China. Earlier this year, Beijing stepped into the region’s messy politics by brokering a deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia—two of the region’s bitterest rivals. China, of course, is allied with Iran and is competing with America for influence over the region.
Ending the Saudi-Israeli Security Alliance
By building a new security alliance that mollifies Saudi Arabia’s possible threat to its proxies in Iran, while damaging America’s partners in Israel, and squelching whatever relationship was arising between Riyadh and Jerusalem over their shared antipathy toward Iran, Beijing is further diminishing American power in this most geostrategically important region.
And that was the true purpose of the Hamas attack on Israel. It was to force Israel to respond militarily against the population of Gaza, putting the Saudis on the defensive, and cooling whatever security alliance was forming between Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The only winners in this are Iran and their partners in China. With Israel having no choice but to attack, Iran has won a major strategic victory, as they ensure that Israel and Saudi Arabia will be kept away from each other.
We are witnessing the start, rather than the end, of the movement toward world war—and certainly the end of the U.S.-led Mideast order.
A 19FortyFive Senior Editor and an energy analyst at the The-Pipeline, Brandon J. Weichert is a former Congressional staffer and geopolitical analyst who is a contributor at The Washington Times, as well as at the Asia Times. He is the author of Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower (Republic Book Publishers), Biohacked: China’s Race to Control Life (Encounter Books), and The Shadow War: Iran’s Quest for Supremacy (July 23). Weichert occasionally serves as a Subject Matter Expert for various organizations, including the Department of Defense. He can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.