This piece was co-written by Aaron David Miller.
Over the past several months, much ink has been spilled, including by the two of us, over the alluring possibility of a U.S.-brokered Saudi-Israeli normalization accord. And a great deal of it has been devoted to what the Biden administration would need to deliver to the Saudis to facilitate such a deal.
The reported Saudi demands from the United States are sizable—even historic: a defense treaty approved for ratification by the U.S. Senate with a commitment to defend the kingdom if attacked; U.S. help in constructing a civilian nuclear program with some degree of Saudi control over the fuel cycle, enabling the country to enrich fissile material potentially to weapons grade; and access to more U.S. weapons systems.
What is less clear—and less often discussed—is what the Biden administration should or will ask of Riyadh. Yet it’s not only a fair but also an imperative question to ask, especially for the U.S. Congress, whose assent to any concessions will be required. The primary U.S. quid pro quo appears to be Saudi Arabia’s agreement to normalize relations with Israel. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has repeatedly described such an agreement as “transformative.” And it may well be, for Israel and Saudi Arabia. But it’s hardly commensurate—in strategic terms—with what the United States is being asked to pay.
And it’s being asked to pay a high price indeed.
Read the full piece in Foreign Policy.