Back in March, Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, reportedly offered to join the Abraham Accords, which normalized Israel’s relations with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan. By officially integrating Israel into the region and stimulating useful economic and security ties among key U.S. partners, the accords offer a real possibility of transforming the Middle East for the better. Including Riyadh, which would represent the ultimate imprimatur of Israel’s legitimacy in the Arab world, has been a priority for the U.S. and Israel ever since the accords were first signed in 2020.
But the Saudi offer to join the Abraham Accords comes with a price. The kingdom is asking the U.S. for promises of long-term arms contracts and, most notably, the transfer of civil nuclear technology, ostensibly for a planned domestic nuclear energy program. While the Biden administration is reportedly weighing the Saudi offer, Washington is reluctant to pay the kingdom’s price. And U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken has publicly stated that he harbors “no illusions” that there will be a quick deal.
One concern is over the use of U.S.-made arms in Saudi Arabia’s ongoing military operations in Yemen. But the major concern is the request for nuclear technology transfer.