Saudis Dread Biden’s Changes in Mideast Policy, Return to Iran Deal

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Saudi King Salman (R) and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. (AP / Amr Nabil)

The Saudis are worried that Biden will lift sanctions on Iran, releasing frozen funds in banks abroad. This would mean Iranian access to money to pursue nuclear weapons, fund terror groups, and direct proxy armies.

Saudi Arabia is worried that president-elect Joe Biden will harm its interests in the Middle East and endanger the Kingdom, an Israeli Arab Affairs analyst said Tuesday.

“There is growing concern in the Saudi royal house that Joe Biden’s new administration will fundamentally change attitudes toward Saudi Arabia. This, especially after the preferential treatment it received from President Trump,” said Yoni Ben Menachem of the Jerusalem Center for Policy Analysis.

Ben Menachem noted that it’s known that Biden promised to re-evaluate U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. He also wants to bring America back into the Iran nuclear deal. This is a fear the Saudis share in with Israel and other countries in the region threatened by Iran.

Biden had harshly criticized President Trump’s “blank check” policy toward the Saudi monarchy that included a $45 billion arms deal. Democrats say Trump defended Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (often referred to as MBS) from allegations he had ordered the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, refusing to release secret information the CIA had on the case.

Saudi opposition activists and the Muslim Brotherhood, which Saudi Arabia calls a “terrorist movement,” are already calling on Biden to change foreign policy. They call to stop supporting Saudi Arabia in its war against Yemeni rebels and improve human rights. They want the release of political activists detained in Saudi prisons and of CIA information about the Khashoggi affair.

Fluent in Arabic, Ben Menachem monitors Arab media commentary which speculates that the Saudi Crown Prince fears that Biden will try to torpedo his selection as the new king after his elderly father, King Salman, steps down.

One assessment in the Arab world is that MBS will urge his father to move toward normalization with Israel in order to moderate the new administration’s attitude toward the Saudi monarchy.

The Saudis are also concerned that the U.S. will pressure Saudi Arabia to lift the boycott of Qatar by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain. Those four accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and interfering in Arab affairs. Qatar backs the Muslim Brotherhood and delivers tens of millions of dollars of cash monthly to prop up the Hamas terror group, which controls Gaza under military rule.

One of the biggest worries is an American return to the Iran nuclear deal and removal of Trump administration sanctions on the Islamic Republic. In a November 11 speech King Salman urged the international community to take a firm stand against Iran’s ballistic missile program and its attempts to develop nuclear weapons.

Last week Trump’s special Mideast envoy Elliot Abrams met with both Israel and Saudi Arabia about the imposition of new sanctions on Iran.

The Saudis are concerned that lifting sanctions on Iran and releasing its frozen funds in banks abroad will allow it to inject large sums of money into its military and proxy armies, including Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and other pro-Iranian militias.

According to Ben Menachem, the assessment in the Arab world is that Biden will indeed change his policy towards the Saudi monarchy and also Egypt.

“The Saudi monarchy has received strong protection from the Trump administration when it comes to criticizing its treatment of human rights and its position on the Iranian danger, but it seems that the Biden administration is about to change things substantially, which worries King Salman and his son, the heir to the throne,” Ben Menachem concluded.

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