The Abraham Accords Further Complicated America’s Place in the Middle East 

by | May 9, 2024

The Abraham Accords Further Complicated America’s Place in the Middle East 

by | May 9, 2024

saudi arabia

Israel has had mostly agreeable relations with the Sunni Arab states for some time now, as they and the United States all fear an empowered Iran. Iran certainly has the capacity to be the region’s most powerful state. While it’s currently sidelined on the world stage, it used to have extremely favorable relations with the United States, even owing the creation of its nuclear program in the 1950s to the U.S. Additionally, Iran has a significant amount of natural resources, having the second largest natural gas, and fourth largest oil reserves in the world. Iran also has a dense and effective network of satellite pseudo-states and rebel groups. Iran has been able to push its influence around the region through these groups, even as Israel and Sunni states dominate diplomatically. The regime in Iran is, at the very least, vehemently opposed to Western meddling, funding groups which oppose Western-allied powers in the Middle East. This by itself is not especially evil, as funding friendly rebel groups around the world is a national past-time of the United States; but Israel and the Sunni states have decided to put aside their differences for the purpose of presenting a united front against Iran. This process is being formalized partly through the American-initiated, Abraham Accords.

Israel signed normalization agreements with Egypt in 1978 and 1979, with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in 1994, and a tentative peace with the Palestinian Authority after the Oslo Accords, (although neither side has consistently held to this deal). While Israel and several of the Arab Gulf States have maintained a strategic partnership at different times, there never were formal normalization agreements. This is partly because Israel is seen by most in the region as a Western satellite state, occupying land which was previously inhabited mostly by Arabs. After deciding to end attempts at normalization by pulling out of the Iranian nuclear deal in 2018, Iran no longer attempted to follow American or NATO requests concerning its nuclear program, or funding of various satellite groups around the Middle East. As Iranian flexing was becoming harder for the over-extended United States and Israel to contain, America needed a plan B. This would involve buying the support of Arab and North African states at levels not seen since the Marshall Plan. This plan would be enacted under the Abraham Accords 

The Abraham Accords have thus far been partially or fully accepted by Israel, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Morocco. Iran’s largest competition in the region, Saudi Arabia, was in talks to enter agreement before the events of October 7 took place. Each state signed under different stipulations. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was preparing to annex the entirety of the West Bank in 2020. The United Arab Emirates and Bahrain decided that this was not acceptable, and agreed to normalize relations with Israel and recognize Israel as a state if Israel would not formally annex the West Bank. Naturally, billions of dollars in weapons sales from the United States played a huge part in this agreement.

Sudan would be next. Being on the American list of countries which fund global terror, the United States would accept that Sudan does not support global terror, if, Sudan normalized relations with Israel. A $1.23-billion loan was involved as well. Sudan’s full ratification is still pending, as its civil war has not yet been resolved.

Morocco is the most recent state to ratify this agreement. In 2021, Morocco signed and agreed to fully recognize Israel, and maintain normal diplomatic relations. In return, President Donald Trump recognized Morocco as the sole authority over the disputed Western Sahara territory, thus denying the Polisario Front self-determination. Large weapons sales from the United States to Morocco would follow.  

The economic benefits seen by Israel and the states which signed onto the Abraham Accords are obvious. Trade has increased significantly, most have received large, generous weapon sales or loans from the United States, and in the case of Sudan, it will be able to re-enter the global economy once its civil war is resolved. This was also beneficial for President Trump’s reputation, and his relationship with Israel and the Gulf States. As part of a Middle East peace plan, this deal had the potential to unite the region against Iran and its satellites. With this deal, peace would not occur through mutual agreements between conflicting parties, or the recognition of legitimate foreign policy qualms, but would be achieved by buying support for Israel, mostly from states which were already strategic partners.  

Contrary to President George Washington’s warning to avoid entangling alliances, the United States would attempt to buy peace for a country across the planet through loans and weapon sales. This realist policy may make sense in a world where Israel’s existence on formerly Arab land does not anger most Muslim nations, but that is not the case. While the leaders of the UAE, Bahrain, and Sudan may not care that Israel is building illegal settlements in the West Bank, the citizens of those respective countries care very much.

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has continued the practice of technically not breaking agreements but breaking them in spirit. For example, Israel has not formerly annexed the West Bank, but it has continued to allow Israeli citizens to establish settlements, often with Israeli funds and military protection. These establishments obviously violate Palestinian sovereignty but are not an outright annexation. These continued actions have led to some selective outrage by Abraham Accord signees, with even the United States showing concern.  

Global outcry has not succeeded in ending this practice, further alienating the Palestinian people. On October 7, the Iranian-funded militant group, Hamas, would use the settlements and the Abraham Accords as justification to break out of Gaza, kidnap Israeli citizens, capture military installations, and kill around 1,200 Israelis. The response from Israel has at this point not been proportional and has led to some Arab states pausing normalization talks. This new wave of conflict between Gaza and Israel has been a huge roadblock for normalization talks with Arab and North African states. However, this conflict should not come as a surprise. President Trump’s strategy in the Middle East was highly volatile and was unlikely to result in long-term peace. Instead of attempting to view the Palestinians or Iranians as legitimate actors with reasonable foreign policy goals, the United States acted increasingly aggressive towards Iran and the Palestinian cause, while becoming more entangled with Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other Gulf States.  

Iran was working with the United States to achieve normalization and an end to sanctions, until the United States returned to diplomatic aggression, unprompted. This aggression took the form of leaving the Iranian Nuclear Deal, assassinating their beloved Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, amongst war postering and other confrontational actions. Similarly, the United States began to favor Israel over the Palestinian cause to a much larger extent. Trump’s plan for peace recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, when it was formerly recognized as a jointly claimed city. The Abraham Accords were part of this as well, as some states which actively supported the Palestinian cause began to soften their stances as they received the benefits of trade and increased American favor.  

One can look at the actions of Saudi Arabia and the UAE in the Yemen conflict, Sudan in its civil war, and Morocco in its denial of self-determination to Bedouin people in Western Sahara as evidence that the United States has not chosen to work exclusively with virtuous actors. A realist perspective might acknowledge that money solves all conflicts, but this is not the case, as is seen here. After funding Hamas as a way to delegitimize the Palestinian cause, Israel is seeing the predictable blowback. After decades of attempts to buy peace in the Middle East, the United States is only further entangled, and the Middle East is no more peaceful. Camp David has worked thus far because Egypt received legitimate consolations from Israel. The Oslo Accords showed promise because both sides were willing to compromise in theory. The Abraham Accords feature few concrete compromises from Israel, and the other parties are already showing signs of discontent with Israel’s actions. A true peace could only come with both parties compromising on significant points and viewing each other as having legitimate policy concerns. The American taxpayer would benefit if the United States removed itself from Middle Eastern conflicts, where billions in aid and weapon sales are unlikely to change hearts and minds in the long-term.

About Aaron Sobczak

Aaron Sobczak is national board member of the Libertarian Youth Caucus. He holds an M.A. in International Public Policy and focuses on unique international, humanitarian, and immigration issues. He lives with his wife close to the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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