The Saudi American Relations: The National Security First


Sat, 18-09-2021 02:53 AM, Aden Time

  • Bader Mohammed (South24) 

    Predicting the future of the American-Saudi relationship is a difficult task amid growing indicators of its deterioration except for the diplomatic confirmation about its solid nature. However, one can’t ignore the remarkable changes in their tendencies far from each other. At an earlier time, the veteran American Researcher Ross Riddell described the matter as similar to the “Cold War”. Not only that, but Riddell, who acted as an Adviser to 4 former US Presidents, predicted that the 9-11 Trials won’t absolve the KSA of responsibility. (1) This is actually what happened after President Biden issued an executive order to the Federal Security Service to declassify the 9-11 Investigations. The Saudi Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision and denied any involvement with the terrorist operation, implemented by the Qaeda. (2)

    On the other hand, this American pressure cannot be separated from the blackmail policy adopted by Washington against its historical ally. This is also relevant to the strategic changes in international policy which is linked to the remarkable growing Saudi-Russian relationship at the expense of the traditional links between the two parties, i.e.: Riyadh has similar pressure tools. 

    The America- Saudi relations

    Since the 1940s, the relationship between the US and the KSA has been based on economic interests in return of American political and military services to Riyadh. In 1973, the Saudi King Faisal bin Abdul-Aziz used this economic advantage through his decision to cut off oil supplies to the US as a pressuring card which proved to be effective at the times during the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    Currently. The Biden administration promotes the climate issue in a serious way which urges the oil Producing countries to reduce their fossil fuel production and adopt an alternative policy that encourages the use of clean energy. Therefore, the KSA presented its 2030 strategic plan. 

    The reduction of the Fossil fuels production will necessarily lead to a decline in the narrative about the American- Saudi relationship relying upon the economic interests, and the emergence of the geopolitical fears and interest’s narrative in a multipolar world. This is reflected in the growing influence of Iran and its proxies in the Arab region, in general, and Yemen, in particular, and the US withdrawal of its protective military Forces and defence systems. (3) Consequently, the KSA resorted to Russia, and signed with it a military cooperation agreement in the field of defence and protection. (4) the Saudi attempt comes in light of the polarization policy acceleration which prioritizes the geopolitical factor above the economic interests. This Saudi move disturbed Biden administration. Accordingly, a spokesperson of the US Department of State “warned the KSA of dealing with the Russian defence sector” (5). Moreover, the American story about the Saudi government’s involvement in the 9-11 Events can be considered a mere reaction, as the maximum possible American escalation won’ t exceeds sanctions against some Saudi figures like what happened in the Jamal Khashoggi issue although some of its federal investigations has not yet been declassified.  

    The impact of the relationship inside the KSA

    It has not yet been clear that the American and Saudi sides decided to abandon some or all of their strategic relationship, as the soft pressuring tools are still promoting the path of return. Moreover, the KSA’s heading to Russia in the military field reflects the amount of damage that harmed the Saudi national security due to the Houthi and other Iran-backed groups' ballistic attacks amid what seems as American indifference. The US administration goes too far by practising double pressure on Saudi Arabia, such as pulling out the defence system of the Patriot missiles, as well as stopping arms sales. All of this weakens the Kingdom's ability to defend itself, and in return strengthens the position of Iran and its proxies in the region.

    On the political field, the Saudi administration made many constitutional reforms to boost cultural, ideological and social openness, in response to the American pressure in this direction. The Biden decision to withdraw the American Forces from Afghanistan and delivers it to Taliban, along with the flexibility it has shown towards the Houthis in Yemen and other radical islamist movements reflect a contradiction that stirs the KSA’s fears and pushes it towards not disavowing its ideological background and to deal with radical groups. Therefore, some observers cite the same reason to justify the KSA’s attempts to sign peace agreements with Iran. The Saudi feels the possible risks of stripping it of its ideological weapon in a way that makes it naked in the face of the Shiite groups inside and outside.

    The impact of the relationship on the Yemeni crisis

    Although the international community’s stress on the political solution for the Yemeni crisis enjoys an unprecedented regional and international consensus, the nature of American Saudi relationship updates will largely cast a shadow on the future of the Yemeni conflict. The Biden administration's pressure towards the end of war and the Recognition of the Houthis expresses an American view that does not care about the Saudi fears. On the other hand, the nature of the KSA’s dealing with the Yemeni crisis puts the observers in front of a different point of view that attempts to reduce the Houthi threats.

    Therefore, the Yemeni crisis needs a positive Saudi role, from the American perspective, that pushes for an all-out political settlement which gathers all active parties. In contrast, the KSA believes there is a need for a positive American role that restrains the Houthis first, although the Saudis keep the rapprochement with Iran or with Houthis themselves an open choice.

    This has probably been enhanced through the KSA’s resorting to other choices such as Russia in the military field, and the narrative of playing with the geopolitical factor card, or even resorting, in the worst scenario, to the withdrawal policy - such as the American withdrawal from Afghanistan- and allowing the Houthis to threat areas which are not under its control like what South Yemen witnesses today in an attempt to throw the ball into the international court.

    Accordingly, the distrust in the long-term Saudi American relationship will impact a lot of thorny field in the region and the Middle East, and would open the door for more influence of new international players such as Russia, China, and probably India but this will undoubtedly boost the Iranian attempts in the region and strengthen its proxies, especially as Riyadh don’t treat its allies outside the kingdom in the same approach adopted by Iran, and still prefer dealing mainly with the traditional bodies, such as the religious groups, to achieve the goals of its foreign policy.

    Bader Mohammed 

    Resident fellow with South24 Center for News and Studies

    -Photo: Reuters

The Saudi American RelationsKSAUSAChinaRussiaIranYemenHouthisMissile System