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12 Dec, 2013 17:27

Accidental allies? Saudi Arabian intel chief allegedly meets Israelis

Aside from their mutual suspicion of Iran’s nuclear program, and growing frustration with Washington, Saudi Arabia and Israel seem to have little else in common. But is it enough to form a partnership?

Are Israeli and Saudi officials heeding the ancient wisdom that says, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend?"

Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Salman bin-Sultan and two other officers are said to have paid a “secret visit” to Israel, where they “met Israeli security leaders”, according to confidential sources of the Palestinian news agency, al-Manar and Israeli radio.

"The Saudi delegation," the sources said, "met Israeli security leaders and Bin-Sultan visited one of the military Israeli bases accompanied by a senior member of the Israeli staff board."

Salman is the brother of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence head, Prince Bandar bin-Sultan bin Abdulaziz.

However, no official comments on the reports dated Sunday followed. The only “confirmation” of the event came from a Saudi internet activist, who goes by the name Mujtahidd on Twitter and publishes behind-the-scenes developments about Saudi Arabia’s royal circle.

How much is there to this report? Israel and Saudi Arabia can hardly be any further apart. Riyadh is firmly committed to the cause of Palestinian statehood, a position that would seem to preclude any sort of alliance between Israel and Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, Tel Aviv does not have any diplomatic relations with Riyadh.

However, analysts see some grounds for a possible approach.

The alleged Israeli-Saudi meeting comes just weeks after P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) and Iran reached an interim agreement, in which Tehran is obliged to halt its nuclear program in return for about $7 billion in sanctions relief. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a moderate reformer who was elected to office in August, said Iran's right to uranium enrichment for civilian purposes had been recognized.

Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, at loggerheads with the Obama administration over its willingness to negotiate with moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, slammed the Geneva agreement as a "historic mistake." He added defiantly that Tel Aviv would not be bound by the agreement.

Israel is not the only regional power fretting over Iran’s alleged determination to acquire nuclear weapons, a charge that Tehran vehemently rejects.

“I believe the main reason for the change in America’s alliances in the Middle East is the issue of the Iranian nuclear program, and that’s a shift in the US approach to Iran from one of confrontation to one of containment,” Prince Khalid bin Farhan Al-Saud, a defector from the ruling Saudi family, told RT. “This is the main reason, even if it does come at the expense of America’s strategic allies like Saudi Arabia and Israel.”

John Graham, a former US diplomat, gave some insight into why Israel and Saudi Arabia are so upset with the United States.

“Israel and Saudi Arabia are very annoyed or frightened right now because of America’s policy toward Iran,”
Graham told RT. “Obama actually called and talked on the telephone to his counterpart, something that an American president hadn’t done in decades. And second, the meeting in Geneva actually produced an agreement, which looks like Iran will make significant changes in its nuclear policy in exchange for a lessening of sanctions.”

Washington’s change of tack with Iran is “driving Israel and Saudi Arabia nuts,” Graham added.

So, is the union possible? On November 17, the British paper, The Sunday Times, reported that Saudi officials had granted permission for Israeli fighter jets to access its airspace for possible attacks on Iran.

A Saudi foreign ministry spokesman, however, quickly rejected the claims, saying Riyadh "has no relations or contacts with Israel of any kind or at any level," according to the state news agency SPA.

Robert Bridge, RT

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.