Debating Saudi-Israeli Normalization: Does it Advance U.S. Interest?

The Biden administration has launched a complex initiative to normalize Saudi-Israeli relations and impose distance between Saudi Arabia and China, reportedly in exchange for U.S. assistance to a Saudi nuclear program and security assurances that could entail the U.S. military defending the Saudi kingdom. Although the basic elements of this ambitious gambit are clear, little is known about the all important details, or the long-term implications for U.S. interests. QI has assembled a panel to assess the administration’s objectives, Saudi and Israeli interest in a deal, the domestic political factors in all three participating states, the potential nature of a U.S. security guarantee, Saudi fuel enrichment in the context of U.S. nuclear assistance, and the degree to which normalization would change the Middle East or reflect changes that have already taken place. We had a discussion of these themes and more, featuring F. Gregory Gause, professor at Texas A&M University, Ellen Laipson, former Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) and currently a professor at George Mason University, and Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute. Steven Simon, senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute, moderated. A full transcript of the webinar can be downloaded here.


F. Gregory Gause

F. Gregory Gause, III is Professor of International Affairs and John H. Lindsey ’44 Chair at the Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University. He is currently working at the Bush School's Washington, D.C. teaching site. He is the author of three books and numerous articles on the politics of the Middle East, with a particular focus on the Arabian Peninsula and the Persian Gulf, his most recent book being "The International Relations of the Persian Gulf" (Cambridge University Press, 2010)

Ellen Laipson

Ellen Laipson is the director of the Master's in International Security degree program at the Center for Security Policy Studies in the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University. She joined Mason after a distinguished 25-year career in government — including as Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council (NIC) from 1997-2002 — and as president and CEO of the Stimson Center (2002-15). She serves on the Advisory Councils of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy.

Trita Parsi

Trita Parsi, PhD, is executive vice president at the Quincy Institute. He was the 2010 recipient of the Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order and was named by the Washingtonian Magazine as one of the 25 most influential voices on foreign policy in Washington D.C. in both 2021 and 2022. Parsi is an expert on US-Iranian relations, Iranian foreign politics, and the geopolitics of the Middle East. He is the co-founder and former President of the National Iranian American Council. He received his PhD in foreign policy at Johns Hopkins’ School for Advanced International Studies.

Steven Simon (Moderator)

Steven Simon is Senior Research Analyst at the Quincy Institute and the Robert E. Wilhelm Fellow at the MIT Centre for International Studies. From 2011 to 2012, he served on the National Security Council staff as senior director for Middle Eastern and North African affairs. He also worked on the NSC staff 1994 – 1999 on counterterrorism and Middle East security policy. His most recent book, "Grand Delusion: The Rise and Fall of American Ambition in the Middle East", was published this spring.