BEIRUT (Dispatches) -- Israeli officials warned their counterparts in the U.S. against being overly critical of human rights issues in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, cautioning that such criticism may drive these countries to forge closer relationships with Iran, Russia, and China, the Times of Israel has reported.
A source told the newspaper that Zionist officials had repeatedly told the Biden administration that harsh criticism of the two countries could affect regional efforts to counter Iranian influence.
The source said that while the Biden administration had maintained its rhetoric in favor of upholding human rights abroad, it had “thus far avoided upending U.S. relations with [Cairo and Riyadh] entirely”.
The occupying regime of Israel views Saudi Arabia and Egypt as part of an axis of Arab countries with which it seeks cooperation against Iran, and has been reported in the past to have lobbied the U.S. in support of economic aid for both countries.
But the Zionist regime’s warning about countries such as China supplanting the United States in the region comes as Israel itself has grown closer to Beijing.
Speaking last month at a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing on U.S. arms sales to the Middle East, Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s top Middle East Policy official, called the region “a theatre for great power competition”.
This comes as the Biden administration finds itself under increasing pressure to cut off arms sales to regional allies such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, who have been accused
of gross human rights violations.
As a candidate, Joe Biden said he would put human rights at the centre of his foreign policy and promote democracy against the rising tide of Russia and China.
Biden pledged to make the Saudis “pay the price, and make them in fact the pariah that they are”, over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the CIA said in a report was most likely ordered by the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman.
On the campaign trial, Biden also pledged “no more blank checks for Trump’s favorite dictator”, referring to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who swept to power in a military-backed coup in 2014 and has overseen a widespread crackdown on dissent in the North African country.
But the Biden administration has so far maintained Washington’s longstanding relationships with Cairo and Riyadh, which are both key partners and major recipients of U.S. arms sales.
Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. military aid after the occupying regime of Israel, receiving roughly $1.3 billion annually, while Saudi Arabia remains Washington’s largest foreign military sales customer, with more than $100 billion in active sales.
In July, Democratic Senator Chris Murphy called for the Biden administration to withhold some of Egypt’s annual military aid over its human rights record.
And Democratic Senator Bob Menendez, who chairs the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has also been critical of arms sales to Saudi Arabia, especially over its role in the war in Yemen. In 2019, a bipartisan group of lawmakers backed legislation put forward by Menendez to block arms sales to Riyadh. The Trump administration vetoed the resolution and proceeded with arms sales.
Some lawmakers have argued that if the U.S. were to walk back its support for its Middle Eastern allies, competing powers would fill the void, and the U.S. would lose what leverage it has over these governments.
Speaking at a hearing with the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Middle East last month, Republican Senator Todd Young warned that enacting “insurmountable barriers” to security assistance would undermine Washington’s ability to exert influence in the region at a time when it is looking to deploy resources elsewhere.
“We will have to rely on governments of the partners and allies we have, not the ones we necessarily wish we have,” he said.