Now that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has clarified what he expects from Washington in return for normalizing ties with Israel—mainly U.S. security guarantees—the question is: Should U.S. decision-makers accept his price?

But first, consider the oddity of the proposed quid pro quo. Saudi Arabia is asking the U.S. government to formally commit to Saudi security—something the United States does only with treaty allies, including NATO members—as compensation for embracing Israel. Again, the kingdom wants protection in exchange for something it would do not for Washington, but for a U.S. partner.

Officials in Riyadh recognize how deep the United States’ bond with Israel is, and they are unashamedly trying to capitalize on it. The Saudis have learned from Arab countries friendly to the United States that if they treat the Jewish state right, they could get handsomely compensated by Washington. Saudi Arabia is not looking for financial assistance from the United States. Rather, it wants protection from the threat of Iran.

The crown prince’s Saudi-first policy, I learned on a recent trip to the kingdom when I met with senior Saudi officials, has a two-pronged security strategy. Instead of choosing between Beijing and Washington to develop stronger defenses against Iran, he is relying on both, but in different capacities.

The monarch-in-waiting will test whether China, which brokered a Saudi-Iran rapprochement last week, can rein in Iranian aggression. It’s a low-risk and shrewd move. Beijing has leverage over Tehran, given the latter’s reliance on the former’s economic investments and purchase of Iranian oil.

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