Joe Biden must get tougher on Iran if he hopes to convince Saudi Arabia to become the next Arab state to embrace Israel, Donald Trump’s former chief diplomat has said.
In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph, Mike Pompeo, the former US secretary of state, said Riyadh needed stronger assurances from Washington that it would be protected from Iranian-backed forces in the Middle East.
Mr Pompeo was one of the architects of the historic Abraham Accords signed in 2020, which established full diplomatic relations between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
“I’m convinced there will be many more countries joining the Abraham Accords and one day the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will as well,” Mr Pompeo said. “[There are] a couple other pieces to the puzzle that they need to see — they need to see strong American leadership, they need to see an America that they know will support them, most particularly with respect to the challenge presented by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
US and Israeli officials have often predicted Saudi Arabia will be the next Gulf state to join the treaty, a move that would potentially transform the Middle East.
It would bring a long-running, secretive security relationship between Israel and the Kingdom into the open, posing a major challenge to their common foe, Iran.
And it could also unlock billions of dollars in trade deals.
Both Israel and Saudi Arabia view Iran as the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East. But Mr Pompeo suggested unless Mr Biden adopted a tougher stance on Iranian-backed forces in the region, such as Houthi rebels in Yemen, then an Israel-Saudi deal may not materialise.
“The Biden Administration within weeks had Iranian rockets flying into Israel from the Gaza Strip and today, this week for sure, you have Iranian missiles flying from Yemen into Saudi Arabia,” he said. “Those aren’t the conditions that breed the capacity for nations to make such an historic decision to enter an agreement such as the Abraham Accords.”
Last Saturday, a suspected Houthi drone strike targeted an airport in the Saudi city of Jazan, near the border with Yemen, which injured several people.
The Yemen war, which broke out in 2011 and unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, has become a de facto proxy war between the Iranian-backed Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition. Both sides have been accused of war crimes in the conflict, which has claimed the lives of 18,400 civilians according to Human Rights Watch.
Hamas, one of the militant groups in the Gaza Strip which launched rocket attacks at Israel during the May conflict, also receives funding and weapons expertise from Iran. While the Abraham deal was lauded by Israel and the Trump Administration, Palestinian leaders have strongly condemned the treaty. They maintain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must be resolved before other Arab states normalise relations with Israel.
The UAE said it signed the accords partly because a precondition was the Israeli government pausing the annexation of up to 30pc of the West Bank under the Trump-era Middle East peace plan. Emirati officials claim the Abraham Accords could allow Gulf states to be a mediator in peace talks.
Mr Pompeo was speaking on the fringes of the Jerusalem Post’s annual conference in Israel which was celebrating the anniversary of the Abraham Accords.
During the same interview, Mr Pompeo, (57), repeatedly refused to reveal whether he plans to run for president in 2024, as has been widely speculated in the United States.
He admitted he was disappointed a post-Brexit free trade deal was never secured by his administration, which he blamed partly on inertia in the UK-EU talks.
Telegraph Media Group Limited