WASHINGTON – For Sudan, agreeing to normalize relations with Israel was the price paid for being removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
A similar diplomatic agreement with Israel sealed Morocco’s demand for the United States to recognize its sovereignty over Western Sahara.
UAE officials who wanted to buy stealthy F-35 fighter jets from the United States first had to sign up to the Abraham Accord, the result of President Trump’s campaign to promote stability between Israel and alienated or even hostile Muslim states.
Either way, the incentives the Trump administration dangled in exchange for the easing could fail – either rejected by Congress or undone by the administration of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Not only does this jeopardize the series of regional rapprochement agreements, but it also exacerbates a worldview that the United States cannot rely on to halt the end of diplomatic deals.
The Abraham Accords, Trump’s foreign policy achievement, have either re-established or re-established Israel’s economic and political ties with Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan and Morocco. Officials familiar with the government’s efforts said Oman and Tunisia could be the next states to join, and warming could extend to countries in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, even after Mr Trump is in January Resigned from office.
The formal relaxation of tensions between Israel and its regional neighbors is, of course, a success that former Republican and Democratic presidents have long sought to promote.
“All diplomacy is a transaction, but these transactions mix things up that shouldn’t have been mixed up,” said Robert Malley, president and chief executive officer of the International Crisis Group, which is close to Antony Blinken, said Mr. Biden’s election as secretary of state.
Mr Malley predicted that the incoming Biden administration would seek to backtrack or dilute portions of normalization agreements that contradict international norms, such as the case of Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara, or otherwise seek to dilute longstanding United States policies such as the F. – 35 sales to the Emirates.
Congress has also sounded the alarm.
The Senate narrowly accepted the Emirates’ purchase of stealth jets, drones and other precision weapons last week, suggesting concerns about expanded arms deals for the Persian Gulf. This could be reversed if the Democrats take control of the chamber after next month’s runoff elections in Georgia. Separately, the move is being reviewed by the Biden administration to ensure the $ 23 billion sale to the United States is made. does not tarnish Israel’s military lead in the region.
A day after the Senate vote, Republican Armed Forces Committee chairman, Oklahoma Senator James M. Inhofe, said it was “shocking and disappointing” that the Trump administration had decided to recognize Morocco’s sovereignty over Western Sahara and predicted it would be reversed. The United Nations, the European Union and the African Union All consider Western Sahara to be a disputed area.
“I am sad that the rights of the people in Western Sahara have been traded away,” Inhofe said in one Explanation. “The president was badly advised by his team. He could have made this deal without trading the rights of an unvoiced people. “
Moroccan Prime Minister Saad Eddine el-Othmani said Tuesday that his government “did not want this to be an exchange”.
“We do not negotiate with the Sahara,” said Mr. Othmani in one Interview with Al Jazeera. “But victory in this battle required company.”
Nowhere has the diplomatic agreement proved more delicate than in Sudan.
The State Department had already decided to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism in order to compensate victims of the 1998 bombings against American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. As part of these negotiations, the Sudanese interim government had called for the dismissal of all other terrorism claims it had faced as a result of attacks in the 27 years it was on the list.
The Foreign Ministry agreed and countered last summer with a condition of its own: Sudan is beginning to thaw half a century of hostilities with Israel.
However, only Congress can grant Sudan the legal peace it is striving for. For the past few months, lawmakers have been bogged down as they would refuse to allow families of 9/11 victims who are attacking their day in court.
“We always wanted all terrorists to be held accountable for what they did on September 11,” said Kristen Breitweiser, an attorney whose husband was killed in the attacks on New York, in a statement released last week during angry negotiations in the Congress was published.
Sudan insists that it is not liable for the 9/11 attacks as al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden left his sanctuary in the country five years before they were carried out. But The Congressional compromise, which officials and others close to the negotiations said have been drafted, will allow the 9/11 lawsuits to continue, potentially holding Sudan liable for billions in compensation for victims.
Representatives from the Sudanese embassy in Washington declined to comment, but previously said the country could potentially withdraw from the peace accords with Israel if it does not receive immunity from terrorism lawsuits. As the Trump administration tries to save the deal from falling apart, an official confirmed a Bloomberg report The United States would have offered Sudan a $ 1 billion loan to clear its arrears and receive up to $ 1.5 billion in annual development aid. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is expected to visit Sudan, Israel and the Emirates in a high-level delegation in the region next month.
Bahrain appears to be the only exception among countries that have been incentivized under normalization agreements with Israel, despite the fact that the Foreign Ministry named Iran-related countries this week Saraya al-Mukhtar as a terrorist organizationIn part because of its aim to overthrow the tiny Sunni monarchy.
It has also raised concerns among current and former government officials and conflict analysts that the United States will identify Houthi rebels in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization in an attempt to convince Saudi Arabia to sign the agreements with Israel.
Officials close to the decision said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was inclined to use the designation in order to cut off Iranian support for the Houthis, who have taken control of most of Yemen, overthrowing its government and neighboring Saudi -Arabia on their five year border have attacked war. It could also ban the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen’s major ports, most of which are controlled by the Houthis, and exacerbate famine in one of the world’s poorest countries.
However, it is doubtful that the very name terrorism would convince Saudi Arabia – the most powerful monarchy in the Middle East – to normalize relations with Israel. This thaw could last for years, if it happens at all, and until then it could possibly be driven more by an increasing number of young adults in the kingdom who are more concerned with jobs and economic stability at home than a generation-old conflict between Israel and Palestine.
Nikki Haley, who was Trump’s first ambassador to the United Nations, said a secret trip Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made to Saudi Arabia last month to meet Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was a bold signal of detente.
“These Arab countries want to be friends with Israel,” said Ms. Haley on Wednesday at the Israel-based DiploTech Global Summit.
Even if they disapprove of Mr. Trump’s transactional diplomacy, Mr. Biden and Mr. Blinken will be cautious about withdrawing from Israel, which is the U.S.’s strongest ally in the Middle East and has significant political influence on American evangelicals and Jewish voters.
“I think President-elect Biden will try to keep the momentum going because it is beneficial to the US and US allies and I think this will be the right thing,” said Danny Danon, who retired this year as Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations.
Alan Rappeport Post coverage from Washington, and Aida Alami from Rabat, Morocco.