The Biden Administration is discussing the terms of a mutual defense treaty with Saudi officials in an attempt to create a military pact that would mirror the ones the U.S. has with some of its Asian allies and normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, unnamed U.S. officials told the New York Times on Tuesday, despite growing reservations about American involvement with the Saudis.

Key Facts

Among the features of the potential deal is guaranteed military support if either Saudi Arabia or the U.S. is attacked in the region or on Saudi territory, the Times reported.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reportedly asked the Biden Administration for assistance in developing a civilian nuclear program—despite longstanding concern from some in Washington.

In exchange, President Joe Biden would get the credit for normalizing relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel, something the Times reported Biden has been working towards for months.

Saudi Arabia has never recognized Israel as an independent country.

The Times reported Biden is expected to discuss the terms of the agreement Wednesday when he meets with Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the United Nations General Assembly.

Key Background

U.S. officials have been discussing potential normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel for many months but negotiations took a turn in June when Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Netanyahu for some 40 minutes about each side’s demands, the Times reported. The long-shot attempt to broker a diplomatic deal between the adversaries was said to have less than a 50% chance, senior American officials told the Times in June. Before Biden was involved in negotiations with the Saudis, former President Donald Trump had his hand in negotiations, as well, twice approving the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Chief Critics

Many U.S. officials on both sides of the aisle have been critical of the U.S. negotiating with Saudi Arabia, given the country’s human rights record. Those critiques became even more scathing after the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. During the 2020 presidential campaign Biden himself was critical of Saudi Arabia, promising to make them a “pariah.”

Big Number

2,657. That’s how many American troops are stationed in Saudi Arabia, according to the White House. There are currently no discussions about increasing the number of American troops in Saudi Arabia under the agreement, the Times reported.

Further Reading

Biden Aides And Saudis Explore Defense Treaty Modeled After Asian Pacts (New York Times)

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