In another piece of groundbreaking history, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett landed in Abu Dhabi on Sunday for a first meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed. This inaugural meet and greet came amidst a backdrop of European diplomats’ increasingly futile attempts to resurrect the long-dead JCPOA. The two events are linked, although Europe’s power centres have yet to realise it, as a stronger regional alliance is forming between like-minded Gulf and Israeli counterparts that renders the need for a grand bargain with Iran less pressing.
The signing of the Abraham Accords in late 2020 between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain and Morocco in many ways formalised what was already long-standing, albeit covert, cooperation on terrorism, security and economy. Yet the normalisation of relations strengthens this coalition. Its members see Iran and its extremist proxies as existential threats to stability and territorial integrity. With the Abraham Accords there is a very real physical as well as diplomatic shift of Israeli-backed military presence right up onto Iran’s Arabian Gulf shores.
One of the crucial outcomes of the Abraham Accords is the change in people-to-people relationships between the signatory countries. Bilateral visits, like the one between Prime Minister Bennett and Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed, shows divisive Islamist extremists, that the once disparate and unofficial opposition to their divisive and destructive agenda is coalescing into a formal unit one warm handshake at a time.
In terms of Middle East geopolitics, it is clear that the momentum is with the Gulf-Israeli partnership. This especially contrasts with Iran, whose economy continues to splutter and whose people remain restless about profligate spending on proxies abroad whilst they go without at home. Why negotiators in Geneva would now give the hardline regime a vital economic lifeline by exhuming the JCPOA is a question without a coherent answer.
The benefit of the Accords is that they are open to new joiners interested in cooperation: the Middle East powers that have been scratching their head for decades on how to respond to Islamist aggression and expansionism. Finally, they have a clear conduit and rallying point for marshalling opposition. One example of this effect is a diminsihing of Islamists’ shameless use of the Palestinian cause to further their political agenda, with the other side presenting a more viable route to peace and stability. More dialogue, not continued silence, is the answer.
However, the Abraham Accord signatories alone cannot bring about the peace and stability the agreement presents. Continued American indifference and apathy towards the region is having consequences. The Biden administration has failed to stand against the Iranian threat and done little to move against global terror and extremist organisations like Daesh, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood, unlike their allies in the UAE and Israel.
Yet despite American inaction in the region, the Biden administration did approve the plan to sell $23 billion of advanced weapons, including 50 state-of-the-art F-35 jets, to the UAE. This suggests some recognition that strengthening the growing Sunni-Israel security alliance across the Middle East remains very much in American interests, even if futile efforts to breathe life into the JCPOA may suggest otherwise.
As Europe fixates and obsesses over Iran, it would do well to cast its eye elsewhere to the remarkable progress made by the Abraham Accords in just over a year. It is clear that European and American security, military and diplomatic interests are best served by bolstering the budding ties between Israel and their new Sunni Arab partners, as indicated by the recent French sale of Rafele Jets to Abu Dhabi. If the Western powers are serious about tackling Middle-East instability and extremism, they will stop trying to appease its biggest instigator – Iran – and instead mobilise the fight against it, embodied by the Abraham Accords.
Michael Arizanti is the coordination manager for the Kurdish charity, Inhalation of Hope, and an analyst for the UK-based think tank Islamic Theology of Counter Terrorism. He is a long-standing writer on the Middle East and extremism.