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Alhamed: Saudi Arabia Leading the Mideast Into a New Era

Alhamed: Saudi Arabia Leading the Mideast Into a New Era
(Serban Bogdan/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Wednesday, 10 May 2023 03:11 PM EDT

OPINION

The Mideast has entered a new era, led by Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, one that focuses on reform, development, and regional security.

What has taken many in the West by surprise has been the breakneck pace of the crown prince’s diplomatic maneuvers.

The kingdom that a Washington Post reporter recently described as being known for "notorious for painstakingly slow diplomacy" now looks to set the agenda, not be held hostage by one.

Clearly, this is not your father’s Saudi Arabia.

Recent developments include breakthroughs in the Arab opening to Syria, ending the Yemeni crisis, normalizing Arab-Turkish relations, signing a Chinese-brokered Saudi-Iranian normalization agreement and, just in the past several days, evacuating to Jeddah scores of Americans who had been stranded in war-torn Sudan.

While all constitute significant developments, the normalization agreement has received the most attention in Western capitals.

Jake Sullivan, President Biden's national security adviser, traveled to Riyadh this past weekend in an effort to keep the bilateral relationship on an even keel.

Given its declining influence, Washington must better understand the dynamic changes occurring in the Mideast, where the majority of the population is now made up of young people.

"I believe the new Europe is the Middle East," MBS said in 2018.

He also accurately predicted that "the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in five years will be completely different."

In geopolitical terms, the Crown Prince’s comment means that Saudi Arabia and others in the region will act independently and not rush to take sides in any rivalry between East and West.

The Kingdom’s desire to reconcile with the regime in Tehran might appear myopic to the casual foreign policy watcher but if, anything, is actually a sober realization that the current White House is more reluctant to act as the bulwark in promoting Mideast stability or even champion the the bilateral strategic relationship that has been firmly in place for over 80 years.

Consequently, nations must best chart their course where the U.S. no longer looks to lead.

As Mohammed Khalid Alyahya, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute and fellow at the Harvard Belfer Center, recently pointed out in The Washington Post, foreign policy conducted by the Biden administration has lacked "clarity" as to how it sees itself in the world and, "absent a United States strategy in the region, people are trying to just find a workable modus vivendi."

China surely believes in its effort to enhance its presence in the Mideast that it has taken America's status down a notch but the recent Saudi-Iranian rapprochement it facilitated will also benefit the United States if regional tensions are reduced, thereby stabilizing the environment for American interests.

Moreover, the kingdom’s declaration of foreign policy independence still expects a strategic alliance with Washington to endure, particularly if there are new and stronger foreign policy voices within the White House in 2025.

Similarly, Saudi eyes were wide open when negotiating the resumption of diplomatic ties with Tehran and the Kingdom will rely on dialogue to trust but verify that promises are kept and progress made.

Iran has been made aware that reconciliation does not rule out a future normalization agreement with an Israel that is increasingly at peace with its Palestine neighbor.

MBS has said he sees Israel, not as an enemy, but a "potential ally" with shared interests.

A number of American media outlets, particularly those on the left, continue to associate Saudi Arabia with the 2018 tragic death of Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist with tangible ties to jihadist and political Islamist groups, and gloss over the successful efforts of the Kingdom’s legal system to bring those responsible for the murder to justice.

While this one-sided criticism of the kingdom is likely to linger a while longer, an increasing number of foreign policy influencers are removing their blinders.

Make no mistake, the relationship between Washington and Riyadh remains crucial for both countries and the larger region.

What my fellow Saudis and I seek is a United States that remembers it still has no equal in the world, addresses its current internal and external weaknesses, and meaningfully reengages the region. When it does, a confident and capable Saudi Arabia will welcome the return of its American partner as the Mideast enters its new era.

Mohammed Alhamed, is a geopolitical analyst. He is founder and chairman of the Saudi Elite group. (@M7Alhamed)

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What my fellow Saudis and I seek is a United States that remembers it still has no equal in the world, addresses its current internal and external weaknesses, and meaningfully reengages the region.
mbs, tehran, salman
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2023-11-10
Wednesday, 10 May 2023 03:11 PM
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