Israel, Saudis Reveal Secret Talks on Iran

Handshake (Justin Sullivan / Getty)
Justin Sullivan / Getty

President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East is  a failure, but he is responsible for at least one accidental success: bringing Israel and Saudi Arabia, once implacable foes, together in opposition to his agenda. On Thursday, Israel’s Dore Gold, the incoming director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, appeared in Washington, DC at the Council on Foreign Relations alongisde Anwar Majed Eshki, a former adviser to the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and revealed secret Israeli-Saudi talks on Iran.

As Bloomberg’s Eli Lake reported: “Since the beginning of 2014, representatives from Israel and Saudi Arabia have had five secret meetings to discuss a common foe, Iran….The five bilateral meetings over the last 17 months occurred in India, Italy and the Czech Republic.” Both Israel and Saudi Arabia consider the rise of a nuclear Iran to be the most important strategic threat to the region. A poll released Thursday shows that Saudis consider Iran and ISIS to be greater enemies than Israel.

The Obama administration has not only ignored Israeli and Saudi protests against the direction of talks over Iran’s nuclear program, but it has also sought to boost Iranian regional power in a “new equilibrium” that sets up the Tehran regime as a counterweight to Sunni powers and Israel. That has convinced Israel and Saudi Arabia to begin a quiet thaw, even though the two have no formal diplomatic relations, and Saudi Arabia officially refuses to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

The enmity runs deep. In 2003, Lake notes, Gold himself wrote a book called Hatred’s Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism. The book highlighted Saudi Arabia’s support for Palestinian terror groups. Now the Saudis have more pressing concerns.

The unveiling of the Israeli-Saudi talks just weeks before the June 30 deadline for the Iran deal sends a clear signal to Obama that U.S. allies in the region are prepared to take matters into their own hands.