Friday, June 21, 2024

From “troublemaker” to “pacifier”… Analysis: Why did Saudi Arabia change its approach?


For years, Saudi Arabia has followed an approach based on what it describes as “flexible muscles.”Financial TimesIt emerged during the reign of then-Defense Minister Prince Muhammad bin Salman, who later became Crown Prince.

The newspaper said that period was marked by the war in Yemen, the regional economic embargo on Qatar and the assassination of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but the recent deal with Iran changed the situation. Reconciliation with Turkey, direct meetings with the Houthis in Sana’a and finally negotiations between the two warring parties. List in Sudan.

As Sudan slid into war, Saudi Arabia sent naval vessels to evacuate thousands of people from the conflict in the middle of last month, and recently brought in Sudan’s military and RAPID representatives in a joint effort with the United States. The troops backed by the talks, the first serious attempt to end three years of fighting, have turned parts of the capital Khartoum into war zones and threatened the country’s fragile political transition after years of unrest and uprisings. .

On Sunday, the Kingdom announced that it would provide “various humanitarian aid worth $100 million and organize a popular campaign through the ‘Sahem’ platform to alleviate the effects of the conditions the Sudanese people are currently experiencing.

Saudi Arabia contributed to the evacuation of thousands of nationals from various countries from Sudan

After a period of isolation following the 2018 assassination of Khashoggi at its embassy in Istanbul, the Financial Times believes Saudi Arabia is trying to shed its reputation as a “troublemaker” in the region in recent years. Mohammed bin Salman has become an unwelcome figure in capitals.

Saudi political analyst Mubarak Al Ati, in an interview with the Al-Hurrah website, believes the kingdom wants to be a “peacemaker in every way”. The use of all forms of diplomacy that contribute to extinguishing the fires of the region and solving its problems, based on the fact that the implementation of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 must be developed internally, regionally and externally, should not seek to postpone or cool down the dispute. Political conditions, and restoration of the kingdom’s political relations with the entire international community.

FILE – In this file photo released by Xinhua News Agency, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amrabtollahian, left, holds hands with his Saudi counterpart, Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud, right, and Chinese Vice Minister Qin Gang in Beijing.

Al Ati said, “The most significant violation in the past was the Saudi-Iranian agreement under the Chinese umbrella, which ended the historic state of hostility in the region and represented an arena for international threats to all countries in the region.”

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It surprised many by announcing in March a deal to restore diplomatic ties with its arch-rival Iran. Saudi officials visited Yemen as part of a campaign to end the long-running war against Tehran-backed Houthi rebels. After calling for the ouster of Syrian regime leader Bashar al-Assad, Riyadh contributed to the pressure to return Syria to its place in the Arab League, which indeed happened on Sunday.

Al Ati says, “By reaching this agreement, Saudi political intelligence has been able to achieve a major breakthrough in our backyard, from which the kingdom has achieved many victories, ending conflicts in the region and opening borders for political, economic, commercial and cultural transactions.”

And he believes there is an additional benefit from the deal, which is that “the entire region has gained Chinese influence by presenting China as a peacemaker and a supporter of peace, and by strengthening China’s role through Saudi Arabia, Iran and China’s huge economic interests. The countries of the region.”

The Chinese President visited Saudi Arabia in December 2023

David Pollock of the Washington Institute, which specializes in the Middle East, believes that the kingdom’s approach, as he describes it, has shifted from “intervention in wars” to “defense,” due to several factors. It said that “the lack of confidence of Saudi leaders against US support in Yemen or Iran in general, so they started efforts to defend themselves, because they know that without strong US support, the kingdom has no strength. It must face all the dangers in this region from Iran, Houthis or other enemies.

“Saudi defeat in Yemen and Houthi victory, so the agreement between Tehran and Riyadh came as a kind of agreement, which was to declare victory for the Houthis in Yemen. They are conducting cross-border attacks.”

But Pollock believes that this change in the kingdom’s attitude, “and raising the voice of diplomacy, treaty or otherwise (ultimately) is in the kingdom’s interest.”

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I disagree with the theory that assesses all these actions as evidence of Saudi Arabia’s weakness. Instead, it’s evidence of a growing confidence in exercising independent maneuvers in foreign policy, and those results are what King Salman and the crown prince want to demonstrate. Taken from Riyadh, not Washington, in regard to the Middle East.” Beyond that, particularly in relation to oil.

“This change in Saudi approach is a testament to the power of decision-making in the kingdom, its realism and its connection to the needs of the stage,” Al Ati opined.

He explains, “Today, the international community is witnessing very significant dramatic changes, pressured by the Russo-Ukrainian war and its political and economic imperatives, or the US-Chinese rivalry in the region. The nature of relations in the region and the way Saudi Arabia has moved quickly to manage its national security, it Monitored and monitored American retreats and withdrawals.” From the region, that’s why Saudi Arabia has opened up a lot to China, Russia and big countries. Brazil and other countries.

The “Financial Times” magazine believes that Saudi Arabia’s aggressive foreign policy has deviated from that on September 14, 2019, when a swarm of missiles and drones of Iranian origin penetrated US-made air defenses to attack a key oil infrastructure. A temporary halt to half of its oil production.

However, Al Ati says, “Saudi monitoring of US behavior was not born in a moment or a few years, but in my opinion it dates back to the end of the era of former US President George W. Obama. The so-called “Arab Spring”, as well as addressing attacks on oil platforms. Either by Trump’s delay in doing so or by the negative stances current President Joe Biden has taken since his election campaign.

Saudi apprehensions about America’s behavior only strengthened a little until they saw America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, which has already demonstrated that the United States wants to leave the region, the last sign of which was the withdrawal of patriot bases. A time when Houthi and Iranian attacks continued on the kingdom.”

Pollock, however, believes that the Saudi view of US involvement in the region and accusations of withdrawal involve “exaggeration”.

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And he says: “The truth is that Saudi-American relations are there, strong, despite all these suspicions and necessary for both sides, but at the same time the Saudis do not want to depend only on the United States without alternatives, so (the kingdom) began to expand its relations with Russia and China, perhaps with Israel in the future.” In defense of Saudi.

“The United States is not opposed to Chinese mediation in the deal between Riyadh and Tehran, on the contrary, Washington welcomes de-escalation of tensions in the region. Whoever the mediator is, the most important thing is the results,” he stressed. ,” and “The results are positive according to the official US assessment.”

He added, “It is true that there is a conflict between the United States and Iran, but Washington does not want a military conflict between Iran and the kingdom or constant tension between them because it is not in anyone’s interest.”

U.S. President Joe Biden finally visited Saudi Arabia last year to push for oil production, pledging that the U.S. would not cede the region to Russia, China and Iran. But within months, after leading the “OPEC Plus” group to cut oil production, he again threatened to renegotiate relations with Washington.

Last July, Biden visited Saudi Arabia. archives

Tensions between Riyadh and Washington have since eased, and the United States continues to ensure the kingdom’s security and seeks cooperation on a number of issues, most recently the conflict in Sudan, in which Saudi Arabia holds sway with the two warring armies. Divisions.

Al Ati credits two separate planned visits to Saudi Arabia by US National Security Adviser Jack Sullivan and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken. The development of a clear framework in which Saudi Arabia still adheres to these relationships and that there is equal gain between Riyadh and Washington from this relationship, especially Saudi Arabia is still capable of restoring the relationship to its historical role.

Rolf Colon
Rolf Colon
"Creator. Award-winning problem solver. Music evangelist. Incurable introvert."

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