White House vows to 'extend and deepen' Abraham Accords

New US national security strategy seeks to contain strategic competition from China

The US vowed to 'deepen and extend' the Abraham Accords that saw Israel normalise relations with the UAE, Bahrain and other nations. AFP
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US President Joe Biden's administration on Wednesday vowed to "extend and deepen" the historic Abraham Accords, which saw the establishment of relations between Israel and the UAE, as well as other Arab nations.

The pledge came as the White House unveiled its much-anticipated national security strategy that sets US foreign policy priorities.

The document detailed a five-pronged approach to Middle East security that includes efforts towards regional integration of air and maritime defence structures, freedom of navigation, and a focus on diplomacy in de-escalating conflicts.

"We will seek to extend and deepen Israel’s growing ties to its neighbours and other Arab states, including through the Abraham Accords, while maintaining our ironclad commitment to its security," the strategy reads.

"We will also continue to promote a viable two-state solution that preserves Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state while meeting Palestinian aspirations for a secure and viable state of their own."

Negotiated under president Donald Trump, the 2020 Abraham Accords saw the UAE and Bahrain signed the first-ever agreements with Israel. Morocco and Sudan joined later.

The release of America's national security strategy comes at a time of rapidly shifting geopolitical dynamics as China's global influence rises and Russia continues its war in Ukraine.

The strategy calls China "the only competitor with both the intent and, increasingly, the capability to reshape the international order", and doubles down on America's so-called "pivot to Asia" that started under Barack Obama as the US tried to shift focus from military engagements in the Middle East.

"It is time to eschew grand designs in favour of more practical steps that can advance US interests and help regional partners lay the foundation for greater stability, prosperity, and opportunity for the people of the Middle East and for the American people," the strategy states.

The strategy launch came just a day after National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby hinted that Mr Biden will "review" its bilateral relationship with Saudi Arabia as a result of the OPEC+ bloc's decision to cut oil production amid economic uncertainty.

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday that Mr Biden will wait for thorough engagement with Congress before making concrete decisions on reshaping Washington's relationship with Riyadh.

"These are, of course, consequential decisions. And he was clear yesterday that he has embarked on that process. And he's doing so with purpose of looking out for US interests and values, as we think about the future of the US Saudi relationship," Mr Sullivan said.

Washington, a top donor of military aid to Israel, re-asserted its commitment to Israeli defence systems, despite recent international controversy over the IDF's apparent killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

On counter-terrorism operations in the Middle East and beyond, the strategy emphasised a shift from “US-led, partner-enabled to one that is partner-led, US-enabled,” and highlighted last year's end to the Afghanistan war.

Major power competition

The White House security strategy asserted one of its central goals is to address major-power competition and the shifting nature of the international order.

The White House said Russia's February 24 invasion of Ukraine played a part in delaying the strategy's long-awaited release, but the war has not significantly shifted Mr Biden's broader foreign policy goals.

"We thought it would be imprudent in such a fast moving and consequential moment, where it was really unclear exactly what direction that were would take to go out with the strategy," said Mr Sullivan.

"We think what has actually unfolded over the last six months, which has defied many of the expectations and conventional wisdom, is a vindication of taking our time and being methodical in putting forward the strategy. I don't believe that the war in Ukraine is fundamentally alter Joe Biden's approach to foreign policy."

The national security strategy also stresses the need for a foreign policy that balances the interests of global allies with those of middle-class Americans.

“We understand that if the United States is to succeed abroad, we must invest in our innovation and industrial strength, and build our resilience, at home,” the strategy states.

“Likewise, to advance shared prosperity domestically and to uphold the rights of all Americans, we must proactively shape the international order in line with our interests and values.”

Updated: October 12, 2022, 9:25 PM