Why is Saudi Arabia selling Israeli-made weapons to Egypt, Jordan, Syria and the United Arab Emirates?
In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz published on Thursday, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that the weapons deal was a “legitimate defense” for Israel.
According to Tillerson, the sale of arms to Egypt and Jordan was not a move to counter Israeli policies but to counter threats from “Iran and Hezbollah”.
“The Saudi-led coalition is the only country in the region that can confront Iran and Hezbollah.
It’s the only major country in that region that has the capability to deal with Iran and to confront Hezbollah, and that’s what we’re doing with Egypt and with Jordan,” Tillerson said.
The US arms sales to the Arab countries comes as the US faces an escalating crisis with Iran over its nuclear programme.
The US has long claimed that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
The State Department said on Thursday that Iran’s “leadership in developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction” has become a “threat to the security of the United States”.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who has long advocated nuclear disarmament, was in Riyadh on Wednesday for a meeting of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members and a summit of the regional bloc’s top leaders.
Iran is also expected to hold a summit in Kuwait later this month to discuss the region’s nuclear program.
Tillerson’s comments came a day after the US announced that it was arming Saudi Arabia, which has been fighting the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in a bid to counter Iranian influence in the Middle East.
“This is the kind of alliance that we are going to build with Saudi Arabia,” Tillerson told Haaretz.
“The more we get to know each other, the more we can work together.”
The US is not the only foreign power that has sought to buy arms from Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, US-backed forces in Yemen attacked the homes of senior Houthi members, killing at least nine of them.
The coalition has also been accused of conducting aerial bombardments of Houthi positions.
While the US and Israel maintain a military alliance, Washington is not alone in pursuing arms sales with the Gulf kingdom.
The United Arab Republic, a group of countries that includes Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, is also seeking to acquire arms from the kingdom.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia also announced a new arms deal with Israel, a move that the country’s foreign minister called “historic”.
The country is buying more than $300 billion in arms over the next 20 years, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.
The Saudi-Israeli arms deal comes as Israel and the US are embroiled in a conflict over the West Bank settlement blocs and the Palestinian territories.
Israel has been accused by the Palestinians of using military force to prevent them from building in the territories it has seized in 1967 and the West Jerusalem area.
US President Donald Trump has been vocal in his support for Israel and his backing for the Palestinians.
However, Tillerson told the newspaper that the US government is “not ready to be drawn into the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” and does not consider Israel a partner for security cooperation.
“It’s very important for us to keep our alliances in mind,” Tillerson added.
“We are not ready to join the Israeli and Palestinian sides into a conflict.”