In a reflection of the change and churn in the Middle East, former high-level officials from Saudi Arabia and Israel -- nations that have no formal diplomatic ties -- spoke publicly about their shared sense of Iran as a threat, their differences on Palestinians and the role the United States plays in their chaotic region.
Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, and retired Israeli Army Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a former adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, spoke in Washington Thursday night at a discussion arranged by The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Their joint appearance doesn't mean the two countries will be normalizing relations anytime soon, Turki warned.
"We are both exes," he said, referring to their status as former officials and not current representatives of their governments. Despite that -- and the fact that the Saudi kingdom has never formally acknowledged Israel's existence -- the two nations have been quietly cooperating for years, exchanging intelligence on shared threats and in particular on Iran.
The most obvious bond the two countries share is their strong security relationship with and dependence on the United States -- and the fact that both have had rocky patches with the Obama administration over the past few years.
Both opposed the deal on Iran's nuclear program, while Saudi officials spoke about their anger that President Barack Obama didn't follow through on a commitment to punish Syria if it crossed the "red line" of chemical weapons use.
Turki said the "strategic relationship with the U.S. will remain, from the Saudi point of view," but suggested it needed rethinking.
"There needs to be a re-evaluation and recalibration of the relationship," he said.Amidror said that while the "Palestinian issue" was a major difference between Israel and the United States, there is "no substitute for the United States of America in the Middle East."
Those "who think other countries can do what the United States used to do is a big mistake," he said. And he indicated that he understood the Obama administration's attempts to recalibrate its ties to the Middle East.
Both men made it clear that their countries will take steps if they see any erosion of the Iran deal they so forcefully opposed.
Previously:Turki said "all options" would be on the table if Iran moves toward a bomb, "including the acquisitions of nuclear weapons, to face whatever eventuality might come from Iran."...MORE
Jan. 2016There are quite a few more but you get the point. In the words of the eminent philosopher-analyst Eeyore:
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"The risks of a nuclear Saudi Arabia"
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- "It's snowing still," said Eeyore gloomily.
- "So it is."
- "And freezing."
- "Is it?"
- "Yes," said Eeyore. "However," he said, brightening up a little, "we haven't had an earthquake lately."