by Dr. Ibrahim Al-Mutrif
As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has chosen the option of being part of, as well as a partner to this world community, it has made great and sometimes strenuous efforts to achieving its economic, political, military and reform objectives, on one hand, and sharing the international community objectives on the other hand. As a result, foreign policy has become the cornerstone for its relations.
As a matter of fact, Saudi Arabia has been predetermined to face historical and geographical destiny, leading it to become one of the most influential and influenced countries in the events that the world is experiencing, in every place and time. The Kingdom’s interaction and dealing with these events was characterized by a lot of decisiveness and choice.
That being said, Saudi Arabia’s political relations with the United States is seen as one of the Kingdom’s most important foreign relations. Diplomatically, these relations stretch back to the oil exploration era, which resulted in the discovery of the largest oil reserves in contemporary world, eventually leading to the stunning Saudi Arabia’s economic and social transformation.
For a number of reasons, Saudi relations with the United States constitute one of major pillars of the Kingdom’s foreign policy. One reason is that the Kingdom has been enjoying distinguished relations with the United States for more than eighty years. Another reason is that the United State represents the largest global political, economic, military and technological power. These two reasons mean that maintaining such level of bilateral relations is a vital issue, and requires permanent preservation as well as development, in all aspects.
Though the relations between the two countries has witnessed tensions at different time intervals, it has remained as a well-defined strategic partnership. Many regional and international affairs analysts and observers feel that those tensions in relations, helped reinforcing the relationship. The leaders of the two countries have realized along the years, the fact that common interests cannot be achieved, without convergent visions, even if they are not identical.
The two sides share homogeneous and/or similar visions and objectives with regards to many of the challenges and events facing the international community. They are striving to find solutions to problems and to achieve global peace, security and stability.
Therefore, I think it is fair to describe the Saudi relations and cooperation with the United States as a “cornerstone” within the Kingdom’s foreign policy framework. Indeed, the friendship and cooperation between the two countries have, over the years, become stronger and more mature.
Recent regional and international developments did not alter the nature of the relations between the two countries. This is clearly demonstrated in the tours taken by high-ranking American officials, of which Riyadh was and still the main destination. Observers feel that there is a shared “will” to maintain and develop relations based on mutual respect and common interests. That “will” did establish, particularly after the painful 9/11 events, a positive development in the relations. As for the future, the leaders of the two countries are trying, as much as possible, not to allow any issue to hinder their relations. They are relying on their conviction, that cooperation and dialogue, are the best and most effective way to overcome disagreements.
As such, the two sides have always emphasized their agreement despite some signs of misunderstandings that occur from time to time. For instance, when King Abdullah, may God bless his soul, said in a speech at an Arab summit “what is happening in Iraq is an illegal foreign occupation and we will not allow forces from outside the region to shape the future of the region.” Washington then, asked for an explanation on what King Abdullah said, but the relations were not affected in any way.
American presidents and politicians that participated and helped shape the Saudi-American relations along the years include Presidents John Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barrak Obama, and Ronald Trump. Among government leading officials that did help shaping the relations, are Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Alexander Haig, Dick Chaney, Joe Biden, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, George Shultz, John Bennett, Hillary Clinton, among many other former American administration’s officials.
However, what matters to us the Saudis, here and now, are the politicians handling the Saudi America bilateral affairs today, and how fair they are treating and keeping up that relationship. Two of the leading administration officials in that category today are, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser, John Bolton.
To be honest, one must say, that they have always been fair in their dealings with Saudi Arabia. Following up their comments – be it to the media, at a press conferences, during an interview or while participating in official settings – one would find that both have been taking positive positions in favor of the Saudi Arabian government and its people. That is very important for us in Saudi Arabia, as the two are very closely working with President Trump on foreign affairs policies.
To justify my above statement concerning how fair both were, I would like to illustrate their positions on a number of existing issues related to my country, Saudi Arabia.
John Bolton recently supported Secretary Pompeo’s certification to Congress that Saudi Arabia is making every effort to reduce the risk of civilian casualties in Yemen. That the US support to the Saudi-led Coalition promotes the American national security priorities, including countering Iran’s destabilizing behavior.
Both John Bolton and Secretary Pompeo have been reassuring US allies, of which Saudi Arabia is a key member, that the administration will continue help them deal with key issues in the region. They also assured the allies, that even with President Trump administration’s decision to pull out part of its troops in Syria, the US is not planning to leave the Midnight East.
The two officials have always emphasized that Saudi Arabia is an important allay in the region’s peace and security, and that the Saudis are important to the US national security and interests.
Both have asserted at times the fact that Saudi Arabia is a priority to the Untied States and reaffirmed American support to the Saudi-led Coalition.
They kept emphasizing the reality, that stopping support to the Saudis is not the right decision in an effort to stop the Yemen war. Moreover, both officials have been confirming the administration’s support to Saudi Arabia in its efforts to stop Yemen from falling in the hands of the Iranians.
On the human rights side, they have indicated in a number of instances, that Saudi Arabia is showing progress in its efforts to deal with human rights issues.
I ought to add here, the fact that when John Bolton was appointed as the National Security Advisor, there were a lot of positive reactions in the Midst East. The media has hailed Mr. Bolton’s calls for a regime change in Iran, as most countries in the region were and still eager to see such change taking place in Tehran.
Such positive positions in favor of Saudi Arabia, from two very high ranking officials, such as the Secretary of State and the National Security Advisor, requires us, the Saudis, to take advantage of such fair and honest attitude towards our country and its people, by: commanding the positions of the two said officials and focusing our soft diplomacy on enhancing and promoting future relations with the American people, in parallel with the efforts undertaken by the Saudi government in its relations with American officials and agencies.
After all, we the Saudis, need to raise the participation level of our civil society involvement in the promotion of our relations with the American people, to the distinguished level that the Saudi government is enjoying with the United States government, its officials and agencies .
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