It’s been just over two weeks since the CUFI 2023 Washington Summit, and we’re already seeing significant, positive movement on several elements of our legislative agenda. In addition, in recent days there’s been a lot of talk about a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but the coverage begs the question: is this spin, or is this real?

CHAI Act Has Bipartisan Support

Late last week the CHAI Act, which readers will recall as the CUFI-backed federal anti-BDS contracting legislation received its first Democratic cosponsor, officially making the bill bipartisan. As regular readers of the Action Update – or for that matter anyone who’s hung around CUFI for more than a minute – know, we always endeavor to advance legislation with bipartisan support.

We still believe that certain common-sense policies should rise above the partisan divide, and we are optimistic that the CHAI Act will be exactly one of those measures.  Good news, right? But wait, there’s more.

Another element of our Summit Legislative Agenda is also gaining steam: the SHIP Act. This bill, as we’re sure many of you are aware, targets Iran’s illicit oil sales, which are largely facilitated by China, by sanctioning any company that helps Iran generate cash through oil deals which the Islamic Republic invariably ends up using to support global terror and advance its nuclear weapons program.

Thanks to you, there have been nearly 50 Members of Congress who recently signed onto the SHIP Act including Senators Collins (R-ME), Fischer (R-NE), Cortez-Masto (D-NV), Braun (R-IN), Thune (R-SD), Boozman (R-AR) and Representatives Larson (D-CT), Schneider (D-IL), Smith (R-NJ), Harris (R-MD), Scholten (D-MI), Ruppersberger (D-MD), Womack (R-AR), Kelly (R-MS), Webster (R-FL), Gonzalez (R-TX), Foxx (R-NC), Khanna (D-CA), James (R-MI), Trone (D-MD), Carl (R-AL), Babin (R-TX), Moulton (D-MA), Norman (R-SC), Calvert (R-CA), Neal (D-MA), Feenstra (R-IA), Wild (D-PA).

To Be or Not to Be?

Saudi Arabia boasts the largest economy in the Middle East, the second largest land mass in the region, and is among the most well-equipped and powerful nations in the Arab world. It’s understandable, therefore, that an Israel-Saudi Arabia normalization agreement would be viewed by many as the crown jewel of the Abraham Accords.

According to an exclusive report that hit the news on Monday, the director of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, known commonly as the Mossad, was in Washington a few weeks ago to meet with White House and CIA officials to discuss a potential Israeli-Saudi accord. About a week after those meetings, U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan traveled to the region to meet with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince as well as other senior officials in Riyadh.

All of this sounds good and well, but… according to reports, Riyadh is seeking a lot of guarantees from the U.S. if it is to proceed down this path. These include a defense pact that would require the U.S. to protect Saudi Arabia if it is attacked, Riyadh being permitted to develop a civilian nuclear program, and continued Saudi access to high-tech American weaponry. The reasons Saudi Arabia is seeking such guarantees are simple: Iran and concerns over Washington’s long-term commitment to the region.

Despite the Chinese-brokered Iranian-Saudi rapprochement that we saw a few months back, the two countries are not allies (not even a little). They have begrudgingly agreed to be nice(ish) to one another because in the short term they can both use that diplomatic dalliance to leverage concessions from those world powers with which they are close. In Riyadh’s case, that’s the U.S.; in Tehran’s case, that’s China and Russia. But the animosity between Iran and Saudi Arabia is still palpable, and that’s been on display in recent days as well.

In a nutshell, there’s an offshore gas field in the Arabian/Persian Gulf that Saudi Arabia and close ally Kuwait have agreed to develop but that Iran also claims as its own. Efforts to divvy the field up have failed. One gas field may not seem like a big deal, but given the history between Riyadh and Tehran, the fact that they can’t even settle that disagreement indicates that the rapprochement between the two countries is shaky at best.

We’ll see where things land on both the gas field dispute and the larger issue of Saudi-Israeli normalization, but indications are that Saudi Arabia, though they’re playing the game of geopolitics with vigor, at this point, continues to view the U.S., Israel and the moderate Arab countries – not Tehran, Moscow or Beijing - as their nation’s long term economic and defense partners.

As always thanks for taking the time to check out this week’s Action Update and for doing your part to ensure a strong, secure, and safe Israel.


The CUFI Action Fund Team


Email Marketing by ActiveCampaign