Israel's latest government under Benjamin Netanyahu is increasing its talks with Saudi Arabia regarding strengthening military ties and intelligence sharing between the two countries. The U.S. government has been backing the recent talks.
The Israeli-Saudi discussions are part of an attempt to form a NATO-style anti-Iran alliance in the Middle East between Israel and the United States' Gulf Arab allies.
While Saudi Arabia has still not normalized relations with Israel, the leaders of both nations have subtly increased cooperation with one another. In 2022, both countries participated in their first public, joint military exercises.
Talks were reportedly held between Saudi and Israeli officials ahead of a meeting of the U.S.-Gulf Cooperation Council Working Group on February 16. Additional talks were expected to take place over the weekend during the Munich Security Conference.
Under the Abraham Accords, Israel normalized with the UAE and Bahrain in 2020 and has since increased cooperation with the U.S.'s Gulf allies.
Since the Abraham Accords, the U.S. has brought Israel into U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), which is the U.S. command responsible for the Middle East.
Adding Israel to CENTCOM operations has allowed for more cooperation between Israel and Arab countries in the region. Prior to the Abraham Accords, Israel was classified under U.S. European Command since it did not have normalized relations with most U.S. allies in the Middle East. The U.S. and Israel have a joint interest in creating a future anti-Iran alliance in the region that will focus on integrated air defense systems.
With the Netanyahu government insisting that it will expand settlements on the West Bank, it is unlikely that Saudia Arabia will engage in a normalization deal with Israel, as the Saudis have stated that such a deal would depend on the creation of a Palestinian state.
However, it is possible that the Saudis could eventually be enticed by the U.S. to do a normalization deal with Israel if the U.S. provides additional military assistance and increased arms sales.
Following a drone strike on a military facility in Isfahan on Sunday, the Iranian Permanent Mission to the UN sent a warning to the U.S. stating that any military action against Iran would be taken as a declaration of war and would be met with retribution.
On Tuesday, the Permanent Mission to the UN told Newsweek, "In Iran's perspective, the use of the military option at any level means U.S. entry into the war. For now, Iran considers such a possibility to be weak." The mission went on to say that the U.S. will be responsible for the "consequences for the region and the globe," if the U.S. "miscalculates and launches a war."
Meanwhile, Washington has denied involvement in the drone attack, which is believed to have been instigated by the Israelis. A Pentagon spokesperson said, "We've seen the press reports but can confirm that no U.S. military forces have conducted strikes or operations inside Iran. We continue to monitor the situation but have nothing further to provide."
On January 29, the Iranian Defense Ministry said in a statement that its air defense forces had stopped a drone attack on a military facility in Isafahan. According to the statement, "One of teh drones was hit by the... air defense, and the ohter two were caught in defense traps and blew up... Fortunately, this unsuccessful attack did not cause any loss of life adn caused minor damage to the workshop's roof."
The moment the facility's defense systems destroyed one of the drones can be seen in videos on social media. The Defense Ministry's statement added that the attack "has not affected our installations and mission... and such blind measures will not have an impact onthe continuation of the country's progress."
While The Wall Street Journal reported that Israeli drones attacked a weapons systemes factory in Isfahan. The Iranian Defense Ministry, however, offered no information as to who it suspected is behind the strike. Despite, the Iranian Defense Ministry's claims, it is likely that Israel was behind the attack, given that it has previously been found to have sabotagged the Islamic Republic before.
In light of the attack, Tehran has confirmed that it will continue to make progress on its "peaceful nuclear program," while Iran's Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian condemned the "cowardly drone attack."