Senior State Dept. official says Saudis enthusiastic about Israel ties

Abraham Accords advancement are strategic, not political; UAE-China ties taken into consideration in new, closer Israel-UAE-US security cooperation.

US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper (photo credit: DAVID AZAGURY/ US EMBASSY)
US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper
Many Saudis are looking forward to normalization with Israel, US Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper said in Jerusalem on Monday.
Cooper accompanied Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Saudi Arabia on the weekend and said “the interest in the pursuit of normalization with the State of Israel is one that is shared across different types of populations and constituencies across Arab states,” including the business, hi-tech and defense sectors.
“We’ve seen this expressed in the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, these people-to-spoke aspects going above and beyond what governments probably anticipated. It was a welcome response – but one also being observed in other capitals,” he said.
In Riyadh specifically, Cooper said ties with Israel go hand-in-hand with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “Vision 2030,” an aggressive reform program for the next 10 years in Saudi Arabia.
“Looking at the future and what they want for their children, and what they want from the Abraham Accords are not exclusive,” he said.
Cooper, a career diplomat who also worked under the Obama and Bush administrations, insisted that the flurry of visits from American officials is not an attempt to entrench Trump policies. Rather, he said, solidifying the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain is a “strategic position” for the US.
“The intent and desire of the Abraham Accords was not to be a static accord, frozen, suspended just initial signatures,” he said. “The long-term trajectory of the accords is to have more states recognize Israel as a sovereign state and recognize there is opportunity and reciprocity with Israel as a state.”
Cooper also pointed out that “national security assistance for Israel, maintaining the qualitative military edge, that commitment is ironclad, it is a statutory commitment, transcendent of any kind of politics or parties. When one looks at our alliance on Israel, it is not one that is determinate on any type of government. These commitments are well established across the decades and administrations.”
The US is weighing not only ways to make Israel more secure, but “interoperability” with Israel and its new allies.
One of the elements Cooper has worked on in his meetings in Israel and the UAE is protecting unique American technology and information, to which Israel has access, from Chinese and Russian intelligence.
The UAE has a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, and signing the Abraham Accords plus its request to buy F-35 jets and other weaponry from the US come with an American expectation that the UAE align itself more with the US than China, Cooper said.
“When the US works with partners who are now seeking to be closer to Israel in civilian, defense and security spaces, [it] will require those partners to take greater [caution] with technological security,” Cooper said. “With the greater joint efforts with the US, Israel and signatories to the Abraham Accords, we want to make sure economic opportunities are just that, and not additional risks.”
These measures are being taken following lessons the US learned from its own experience, he added.
The approach to each country is different when it comes to technological security, Cooper said, but he gave the example of Turkey being removed from the F-35 program once it sought to buy the Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile system.
“The US definitely applies conditions... to ensure our unique technology remains protected,” he stated.