Hit the reset button on Saudi-US relations

Hit the reset button on Saudi-US relations

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman greets US President Joe Biden in Jeddah on July 15, 2022. (Photo by Saudi Royal Court)

The relationship between Saudi Arabia and the United States has been rocked by ongoing crises, such as rising crude oil prices; the Russian-Ukrainian war, which has heightened food security concerns in many countries; and upheavals in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and other countries. These issues prompted the US administration to strengthen its ties with Saudi Arabia following a visit by President Joe Biden to the Kingdom to address economic, social and environmental issues to foster sustainable development.

Diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States date back to 1933 and it has been nearly 80 years since Saudi Arabia’s founder, King Abdulaziz, met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lay the groundwork for a Middle East after World War II.

The myth of oil versus security is a thing of the past. We must focus on sustainability and ensuring peace and prosperity for Saudi Arabia and the United States, for our peoples, and for the rest of the world.

As Saudi Arabia grows, Saudi-American relations can provide a partnership around food security, energy, stability, and regional growth to ensure that peace and prosperity. We must redefine the contours of the next eight decades of this critical alliance.

The Jeddah communiqué on Saudi-US relations underscored the pivotal role that the historic partnership has played in promoting regional stability and prosperity. The Saudi-American partnership has been a cornerstone of regional security for decades and he affirmed that the two countries share a vision of a more secure, stable and prosperous region, interconnected with the rest of the world.

Saudi-US relations also affirm the importance of food and energy security and climate cooperation. They stress the importance of strategic economic cooperation and investment, particularly in light of the current crisis in Ukraine and its aftermath, and reaffirm the countries’ commitment to a stable global energy market. The United States welcomed Saudi Arabia’s commitment to support balancing the global oil market for sustained economic growth.

Less positively, for many years Saudi Arabia has been singled out by the United States as being largely responsible for climate change. Let’s also not forget the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act or the No Oil Producing and Exporting Cartels Act.

The US administration understood that the path to power must lead back to the Middle East

Turki Faisal Al-Rasheed

In my book “Ma Katb”, published in 2010 during the American occupation of Iraq, I wrote that the United States would flee defeated Iraq and go through years of economic recession. In a short time, she would understand the consequences of the occupation of Iraq and seek to pull herself together. In politics, as well as in nature, there is no vacuum and other powerful countries would seek to fill the vacuum.

Today, the American administration has understood that the path to power must lead back to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia plays a central role in the power game. The gradual withdrawal of the United States from the region has made China the first trading partner of the Gulf countries, while Russia has become an important player in Syria and Libya. Currently, Iran wields considerable influence in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and northern Yemen.

Today, Saudi Arabia in particular and the Gulf in general are more independent, with Arab states willing and able to act without regard to a patron superpower. Furthermore, the Middle East is internally characterized by several regional powers, with Arab power shifting from the traditional heartlands of the Levant and Egypt to the Gulf, non-Arab states such as Turkey, Israel and Iran being also increasingly involved.

The Arab world believes that the United States simply does not have the resources or the political capacity to play the role of a dominant power in the Middle East. The Arab regional powers no longer believe that the United States can or will act militarily to defend them.

This is reminiscent of the University of Arizona’s special roundtable, “Pressing the Reset Button for U.S.-Saudi Relations: Establishing Cooperation Beyond Oil and the Military in agriculture, food, education and society”. This session was held on November 9, 2016, the day Donald Trump was announced the winner of that year’s US presidential election.

The roundtable highlighted the importance of resetting Saudi-US relations beyond oil and military purchases by focusing on sustainability for the common good. Increased collaboration between the United States and Saudi Arabia in particular, and the Arab world in general, is essential to achieving the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

It bears repeating that the myth of oil versus security is a thing of the past. The way forward after pressing the reset button on Saudi-US relations is to focus on food security, energy security, and environmental, economic and social issues, for the common good.

Relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States have survived many serious difficulties and the relationship between the two countries is crucial for global stability. It’s a relationship that shouldn’t be taken for granted: it needs to be nurtured constantly or it will drift away.

Turki Faisal Al-Rasheed is an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona. He is the author of “Public Governance and Strategic Management Capabilities: Public Governance in the Gulf States”.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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