The U.S. Push for Saudi-Israel Normalization


The Biden administration has been making efforts to expand the Abraham Accords by brokering an agreement on normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. The Saudis have set out their goals, which alongside their desire for progress on the Israel-Palestinian issue include several major “asks” from the US: a security guarantee, easier access to US arms purchases, and US-Saudi cooperation on development of a nuclear power industry. What are the prospects for success? Should the US be willing to offer Saudi Arabia some form of security guarantee or “major non-NATO ally” status? Can the US and Saudi Arabia find a formula to overcome disagreements on nuclear safeguards? How does this impact the recent moves toward a Saudi-Iranian détente? These are only a few of the relevant questions.

The Center for the National Interest hosted a virtual discussion of these issues with two leading experts on July 27.

Jonathan Lord is Senior Fellow and Director of the Middle East Security program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Prior to joining CNAS, Lord served as a professional staff member for the House Armed Services Committee and had previously served as the Iraq country director in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy and as a political military analyst in the Department of Defense.

Firas Maksad is a Senior Fellow and Director of Strategic Outreach at the Middle East Institute (MEI). He is a recognized expert on the politics of Lebanon and Syria, the geopolitics of the Arab Gulf, and the broader dynamics of the Middle East region. He is also an adjunct professor at George Washington University.

Greg Priddy, Senior Fellow for the Middle East at the Center, moderated the discussion.