Before the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that precipitated the current Israel-Hamas war, the U.S. was reportedly brokering a peace deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel. Some experts on the Middle East have suggested that the Hamas attack was partly a response to that peace initiative. Those regional observers point out that such a thawing of Israeli-Saudi relations would be detrimental to the interests of Iran, and that as the chief sponsor of Hamas, Iran likely prodded the militant organization to launch the attack in an attempt to scupper the peace process.
As part of that proposed peace deal, the U.S. is expected to provide a security guarantee to Saudi Arabia. That guarantee would protect the Saudis against possible future attacks by Iran and its proxies in the region. If a deal were to come to fruition, a two-thirds majority of the U.S. Senate would be required to ratify the defense treaty.
With Saudi Arabia increasingly in bed with China and Russia, some U.S. senators are openly questioning the wisdom of providing such a guarantee to the Saudis. That is a valid question. But the bigger worry is that there is an increasing loss of faith in U.S. foreign policy.
It is now widely known that the Clinton administration was quite reluctant to make an iron-clad military commitment to Ukraine when it brokered the agreement that led to the signing of the Budapest Memorandum. The administration was only prepared to provide “security assurances.” It essentially meant that any future U.S. administration would have the flexibility to decide the extent to which it would provide assistance to Ukraine when called for. Some people have intimated that the watered-down commitment came about because there were fears that the U.S. Congress at the time would not vote to ratify a more robust defense treaty.
By its current actions, America is demonstrating that it is a bank that is not trustworthy. Ukraine has come to cash its check, and we seem to be declaring insolvency. We are coming up with all sorts of excuses to shirk our responsibility. If that is the case, then why would the Saudis trust anything we provide them anyway? It is our own border security and other internal matters that are blocking much-needed aid to Ukraine today. But America is never short of problems so we can always find something to justify any future inactions. Without credibility, it doesn’t matter whether the word we use is guarantee or assurance. Is that perhaps why the Saudis seem to be playing both sides?
America has had a longstanding strategic interest in the Middle East so our involvement in the Israeli-Saudi peace deal is not surprising. But, by offering the Saudis a guarantee, are we suggesting that the nuclear nonproliferation effort, as part of which the U.S. pressured Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons, which then made it vulnerable to Russian attacks, was that much less important to us? If putting the security and the very existence of another country in such grave danger is not that big of a deal to us, as our attitude towards Ukraine is starting to show, then for heaven’s sake, enough with this business of issuing assurances and guarantees.
What is worth doing is worth doing well. America cannot solve all of the world’s problems so it must weigh its foreign policy choices carefully. Making these kinds of half-hearted promises all over the place and walking away from them, as this nation seems to be doing with its quickly waning support for Ukraine, is a surefire way to lose respect on the global stage.