Why Saudi Arabia and maybe Jordan participated in Israel’s defense

12

Iran threatens the region and faces the possibility of a larger confrontation.

Iran encountered resistance from one or two unexpected sources during its bombardment of Israel with drones and missiles over the weekend. Observers speculate that Jordan and Saudi Arabia may have thwarted the attack for various complicated, possibly self-serving reasons.

However, they might also highlight how worried the Arab countries are about Iran’s menace and about averting a protracted regional war. Following what seemed to be an Israeli attack on an Iranian consulate in Syria on April 1, which left 12 people dead, including two Iranian generals, Iran launched missiles and drones against Israel. 

The Israeli defense forces and the United States, Britain, France, and Jordan intercepted nearly all of them.

There are rumors that the United States received intelligence reports from Saudi Arabia regarding Iran’s ambitions. However, Jordan took a more hands-on approach, assisting in the downing of drones as they passed across its airspace. According to NBC News, Jordan permitted Israeli planes to fly over its territory and may have engaged in what some consider to be the first-ever side-by-side combat.

‘Particularly Extraordinary’ 

For Israelis who remember hiding from their eastern neighbor’s attacks, Jordan’s involvement was “especially remarkable,” according to Mairav Zonszein, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group. A peace accord signed in 1994 brought an end to decades of warfare between Israel and Jordan and established diplomatic relations.

Zonszein commented on X, “The takeaway: diplomatic deals are vital for stability.”

Jordan has expressed strong disapproval of Israel’s activities in Gaza. However, senior fellow Ghaith al-Omari of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy asserts that Jordan’s assistance in thwarting the Iranian strike demonstrated the strength of Israel and Jordan’s shared security interest. 

“The military and intelligence relationship never stopped,” he told The Times of Israel, despite their political differences.

“In fact, because both forces recognize how important it is to keep this connection going, they get closer the worse things go politically. This is a component of both Israeli and Jordanian military doctrine.

Jordanian officials have made very few statements, essentially downplaying their role in the strike that occurred over the weekend and stating that they were merely defending their own security while Iranian rockets were flying over their airspace.

Jordan’s response was, first and foremost, self-defense, according to Brian Katulis, senior scholar of U.S. foreign policy at the Middle East Institute.

But it also conveyed the following message: “Even though we have differences and strong differences with Israel … on the Gaza war and other things, we do have this shared interest in making sure that the airspace in our territory is defended.”

Thomas Juneau, an assistant professor at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, says he wasn’t shocked to see Jordan publicly attempting to minimize its role. The nation is in a dangerous situation because the peace deal with Israel is highly unpopular among the people of that country, many of whom are Palestinian. 

In Jordan, demonstrations against the Gaza War have gotten more intense lately. But according to Juneau, the Jordanian monarchy is very dependent on the United States for security, political, diplomatic, and developmental help because of its close ties to Israel.

A conflagration between Israel and Iran would be detrimental to all other countries, with Jordan being the most affected, according to Juneau, thus it is also in the interest of the Jordanian government to prevent it.

Contributing to Israel’s defense is “one way to try to do its part to prevent this from escalating.” Juneau stated.

Principal worry regarding Iran

Saudi Arabia’s involvement in this matter could simply be another indication of its primary concern with Iranian aggressiveness. Juneau stated.

China assisted Saudi Arabia, a longstanding regional competitor, in reestablishing diplomatic ties last year. Iran is still seen as a threat to the kingdom, though.

Iran and Saudi Arabia are still engaged in a proxy war in Yemen, and the latter’s backing of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas irritates neighboring nations, particularly Israel. 

“Saudi/Israeli co-operation has been deepening,” added Juneau. “Saudi Arabia and Israel share a common enemy in Iran that’s been the main driver of all of that cooperation.”

Before the Gaza War, the United States and Saudi Arabia were in the process of negotiating a defense agreement that would allow Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic ties with Israel. These have since come to a standstill, but Juneau stated that Saudi Arabia is eager to resume talks.

A Saudi-US defense alliance is now more likely as a result of Israel’s battle with Hamas, “because it further clarifies the strength of the threat that Iran poses to regional security,” he indicated.

The Iranian attack from the previous weekend “will even further incentivize Saudi Arabia”

A few analysts further argue that any assistance in countering the Iranian strike highlights current initiatives to establish an American-Arab-Israeli regional security framework.

A proposal for a so-called Arab NATO, a new security alliance that would see Israel collaborate with a few Arab nations to thwart Iran’s regional development, was subtly advanced by the Trump administration.

In their analysis of the Israel-Iran war, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies stated that “such cooperation offers a preview of what an increasingly capable combined regional safety architecture could accomplish when it comes to deterring, identifying, and fighting Iranian aggression.”

He argues that nations in the region, particularly these days, seek to hedge their bets due to the region’s complex politics.

It’s “almost the standard these days.” Several of these nations take precautions in their dealings with other nations,” he stated. However, for the same reason, people frequently hesitate to sign a contract and make a long-term commitment.

It’s “just not how things operate these days.”