Israel is working directly with Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations in the fight against terrorism, CIA Director Mike Pompeo said on Saturday, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The comments were made at the Reagan National Defence Forum in California, where Pompeo cited the danger Iran posed not just to the US, but to other states in the region, as a unifying factor.
“We’ve seen them [Saudi Arabia] work with the Israelis to push back against terrorism throughout the Middle East, to the extent we can continue to develop those relationships and work alongside them – the Gulf states and broader Middle East will likely be more secure,” Pompeo told the audience.
Former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta was also a speaker at the event and took his speech as an opportunity to call on Arab countries to form a coalition with Israel, the US and Turkey, and even to run a joint military operations centre.
“It is incredibly important that in the Middle East, where we have failed states, where you have ISIS [Daesh], where you have Iran, that we have got to develop a stronger coalition of countries that are willing to work together to confront these challenges,” he said.
“I think with a joint military headquarters, that can… target the terrorists in that region, that can basically work together to try to provide stability where is necessary in these countries,” Panetta concluded.
Rumours of Saudi Arabia normalising relations with Israel were brought to the fore once again last month after Israeli Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz confessed that Tel Aviv had covert contacts with Riyadh amid common concerns over Iran.
Just days before, Saudi news agency Elaph, which is close to the decision-making circles in Riyadh, published an interview with the Israeli army chief of staff, Gadi Eisenkot; a step described by Israeli sources as a move to bring Saudi and Israeli relations into the public sphere.
The reports reignited the controversy in September when whistleblower Mujtahidd leaked reports stating the alleged desire of the Kingdom to accept Israel “as a brotherly state”.
The Saudi public have strongly rejected any attempts at normalising relations with Israel in the past, and such reports prompted concern among many.
Saudi officials have maintained that any relations with Israel hinge on Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands captured in the 1967 Middle East war, territory Palestinians seek for a future state. However, rumours of existing cooperation persist, including alleged Saudi backing for the US proposed Israel-Palestine peace plan to be released next year.