Sullivan Met w/ Saudi Aradia for ‘Semi-Final’ Security Deal as Iran Mourns President

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(Headline USA) The shocking loss of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi sent ripples through the Middle East after his helicopter crash-landed in heavy fog, killing the leader, whose body was finally retrieved Monday after a lengthy overnight search.

Speculation quickly turned to whether the attack may have been provoked, following recent tensions between Iran and Israel.

The latter recently used its Iron Dome technology to fend off a barrage of Iranian missile attacks, for which it warned there may be future retaliation.

While there was no direct evidence linking Israel’s Mossad intelligence forces to the helicopter crash, there was sure to be a growing amount of speculation about the possibility of it as the picture comes into clearer focus.

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Headline USA cannot verify the authenticity of the tweet below, claiming to show the Iranian president’s helicopter being shot out of the sky, but is sharing it as an example of what already has begun to surface online.

The fiery rubble of the copter meant that many of the bodies of those aboard could not even be identified.

Meanwhile, it happened as one of the top American foreign policy officials was in the Middle East for talks with the country considered most often to be on the other end of the spectrum in Muslim politics.

While Iran has the greatest distribution of Shia Muslims, Saudi Arabia is the leading Sunni power, meaning that it is likely to play a key role in any power vacuum that will emerge.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan met early Sunday with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss what the kingdom described as the “semi-final” version of a wide-ranging security agreement between the countries.

While the Trump administration had succeeded in making a similar deal that gave Saudi Arabia heavier influence in the region, even resulting in numerous peace accords with Israel, President Joe Biden quickly alienated the Saudi crown prince by suggesting that he should be held accountable for the shocking death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Relations since then have been tense, at best, and the Saudis have signaled an openness recently with the China- and Russia-aligned BRICS alliance, despite Iran’s presence in it.

The announcement by the state-run Saudi Press Agency comes as the strategic deal had been upended after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel that killed 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage back to the Gaza Strip.

In the time since, a punishing Israeli airstrike campaign and ground offensive there has killed over 35,000 Palestinians, endangering the security deal that had included Saudi Arabia diplomatically recognizing Israel for the first time since its founding in 1948.

Saudi state media released no images of Sullivan and Prince Mohammed meeting in Dhahran, a city in the kingdom’s far east that’s home to its state-run oil giant, the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. known as Saudi Aramco.

“The semi-final version of the draft strategic agreements between the kingdom and the United States of America, which are almost being finalized—and what is being worked on between the two sides in the Palestinian issue to find a credible path — were discussed,” the statement released after the talks said.

That included “a two-state solution that meets the aspirations and legitimate rights of the Palestinian people” and “the situation in Gaza and the need to stop the war there and facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid,” the statement added.

Saudi Arabia has long called for an independent Palestinian state to be created along Israel’s 1967 borders, with east Jerusalem as its capital.

However, that likely may be untenable for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with Israel having resolved after the shocking Oct. 7 attack that it could not peacefully coexist with any sort of government overseen by Hamas.

The White House issued a statement early Monday after Sullivan traveled to Israel and met with Netanyahu, saying the Saudi talks “focused on a comprehensive vision for an integrated Middle East region.”

The statement did not elaborate, other than to call the talks “constructive.”

Saudi Arabia has long relied—like other Gulf Arab nations—on the U.S. to be the security guarantor for the wider Middle East as tensions over Iran’s nuclear program in recent years have spilled over into a series of attacks.

The proposal now being discussed likely would deepen that, and also reportedly includes access to advanced weapons and possibly trade deals as well.

Saudi Arabia has also pushed for nuclear cooperation in the deal that includes America allowing it to enrich uranium in the kingdom—something that worries nonproliferation experts, as spinning centrifuges opens the door to a possible weapons program.

Prince Mohammed has said the kingdom would pursue a nuclear weapon if Iran had one. Iran in recent weeks has increasingly threatened it could do so.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations in New York meanwhile confirmed that Tehran held indirect talks with U.S. officials in Oman last week. Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency quoted the mission as describing the talks as “an ongoing process.”

“The negotiations have not been the first and will not be the last of their kind,” the mission said, according to IRNA.

Oman, a sultanate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, has been the site of U.S.–Iran talks in the past, including under Biden despite the tensions between the two nations.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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