Unfreezing the Abraham Accords: A New Transatlantic Strategy for Greater Peace, Stability and Integration in the Middle East

Barak M. Seener

In the wake of the appalling terrorist attack against Israel on October 7, there were widespread concerns that the US-led plan to stabilise the region through increased ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours, known as the Abraham Accords, would be an inevitable casualty of the ensuing conflict. The perpetrators of the massacre, Hamas, are backed by Iran, and an important motive for Iran encouraging Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis to attack was seen to be an attempt to fracture the Abraham Accords and prevent Saudi Arabia from normalising relations with Israel, negotiations for which, brokered by the Biden Administration, were almost complete. Despite the presence of US aircraft carriers in the region aimed at deterring Iran and preventing an escalation of the conflict in Gaza, Iran appears to be intent upon escalating and regionalising tensions. This affects the deepening and broadening of Gulf trade and the security collaboration driven by the Abraham Accords which in turn undermines economic and security access for the US and UK.

Iran’s strategy has not succeeded as it hoped. Saudi Arabia remains eager to normalise relations with Israel, while also advancing the prospect of a Palestinian state. Abraham Accord signatories have also indicated, at least in private, that their ties with Israel will continue.

Yet with Israel’s war of self-defence ongoing, the Abraham Accords remain frozen, waiting for new diplomatic efforts to revive their potential. At the same time, the new Western-facing regional order promised by the Accords is under threat from the growing influence of China in the region. This makes the need to unfreeze the Accords, and regain the initiative, all the more important.

This paper argues that the UK has an important role to play in unfreezing the Abraham Accords, by leveraging its diplomatic ties with GCC states as well as its regional economic and security interests. By working alongside the United States, the UK can help deliver a new transatlantic strategy that integrates both trade and military power, stabilising the region and countering both Iranian and Chinese influence.

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