The United States May No Longer Be the Region’s Security Convenor

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A little too late in trying to catch a fast-moving train headed in the opposite direction of American and allied interests, the Biden administration initiated high-level communications with the Saudi government in the wake of last month’s Chinese-brokered deal between Riyadh and Iran. The administration sent controversial US National Security Council Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, Brett McGurk, to Riyadh on April 14 to discuss how to repair US-Saudi disagreements, but the following day, the news broke that the Saudis will host a HAMAS delegation soon and have already released several HAMAS detaineesIran and Saudi Arabia also announced the lifting of travel bans and the reopening of embassies

Iran’s ambitions from the China-brokered deal with the regional financial and economic powerhouse, Saudi Arabia, extend beyond just the restoration of diplomatic services, encompassing regional trade opportunities and even a regional strategic realignment against Tehran’s foes. Emboldened by the restoration of diplomatic relations mediated by China, Tehran sees itself as no longer isolated in the region and called for a united Muslim front against Israel this week. Using Syrian territory to launch attacks on Israel, Ismail Qaani, Qassim Soleimani’s successor and the “new nightmare maker for Israel,” held meetings in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq to coordinate more attacks on Israel and recruit new fighters.

Following the escalation of Israeli attacks against Iran in Syria, Qaani moved the headquarters of secret meetings to Beirut, indicating that Iran is not showing any signs of backing down from its strategy. It is becoming more likely that these secret meetings will produce further escalations.

On Friday, April 14, 2023, the Iranian regime celebrated a lackluster Quds Day, during which several clerics and military commanders made remarks about the demise of Israel. The spokesman of the IRGC, Ramazan Sharif, said the United States is not in a position to support Israel and knows that if Israel takes action against Iran, then the “in-kind retaliation will engulf the bases of those supporting them.” Deputy IRGC commander for political affairs, General Yadollah Javani, said Israel should be wiped off the map, stressing that this will materialize and the Jewish people must return to their home countries. The Palestinian Quds Brigade, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad Movement, also held a large celebration of Quds Day in the Yarmouk camp in Damascus, Syria, the same neighborhood where Assad killed and displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians for years. Israel had to close its airspace with Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza in anticipation of missile strikes during the Iranian Quds Day activities in those areas.

Prime Minister Netanyahu said on Sunday that “Israel must always be able to defend itself with its own military. If superpowers want to mobilize to help, that is good, but we cannot build our national security on the foundations of others.” Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also warned, “Iran is waging a multi-front war of attrition against the State of Israel.” 

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