Pompeo heads to Israel, Sudan, Bahrain amid talk of normalization

Pompeo plans to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss making peace with more Arab countries “in the near future.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo lands in Israel, August 24, 2020 (Ziv Sokolov/US Embassy Jerusalem)
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to land in Israel on Monday, the first of several stops in the region.
His itinerary includes Sudan and Bahrain, two countries whose ties with Israel have warmed recently and which could follow the United Arab Emirates in normalizing them. He also plans to visit the UAE.
The Secretary of State intends to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said in a press conference on Sunday that they will discuss making peace with more Arab countries “in the near future.”
The statement from Pompeo’s office said he and Netanyahu plan “to discuss regional security issues related to Iran’s malicious influence” several days after he triggered the “snapback sanctions” mechanism in accordance with the Iran nuclear deal.
Netanyahu and Pompeo also are expected to discuss how to implement the Abraham Accord between Israel and the UAE. It also will be on the agenda for Pompeo’s meeting with UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi.
The State Department mentioned “cooperation in protecting the US and Israeli economies from malign investors,” a reference to China. The US has pushed many of its allies this year to stop China from investing in major infrastructure projects. Israel and the US have been working on a memorandum of understanding on the matter, especially in relation to communications infrastructure, including 5G Internet networks.
In Sudan, Pompeo will meet with Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and Sovereign Council Chairman Gen. Abdel Fattah el-Burhan to support their civilian-led transitional government and discuss “deepening the Sudan-Israel relationship.”
Netanyahu and Burhan met in Uganda in February.
Sudan has moved in a more pro-Western direction, and away from Iran’s orbit, since the overthrow of Omar al-Bashir last year. It seeks to be removed from the US list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The listing dates to 1993 and makes Sudan, struggling with a deep economic crisis, technically ineligible for debt relief and financing from international lenders. Significant progress was expected on the issue in the coming weeks, a senior Sudanese government source told Reuters last week.
Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer said he is working behind the scenes on more Israeli peace agreements with Arab countries.
“Doing this behind the scenes is very important,” he told Dubai-based Al Arabiya news channel.
“There are several countries where there are possibilities [for peace],” Dermer said. “I don’t want to say this specific country or not. But there are several countries, and we hope that we see another breakthrough very, very, soon in the weeks and months ahead.”
Also Sunday, White House Special Adviser Jared Kushner said the peace agreement between Israel and the UAE increased the chances that the latter would be able to buy F-35 stealth jets from the US.
Netanyahu opposes such a sale to any other country in the Middle East, citing Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). But talk of the UAE being able to buy F-35s has raised questions as to whether the prime minister knew it would happen soon after normalization, despite his protestations.
“The UAE has wanted F-35s for a long time,” Kushner told CNN. “The group that wants them not to get it the most is obviously Iran… and the reality is that this new peace agreement should increase the probability of them getting it.
“The UAE is a tremendous military partner for America for many years,” he said, adding that selling F-35s is “something we could see potentially happening now as a result of this great breakthrough.”
The matter is under review in the US State Department and military, Kushner said, and “obviously we’ll look at the QME and do everything in accordance with the right standards.”