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US-Saudi Relations: Stalemate Continues – Weekly Voice

US Secretary of State Anthony Brinken visited Saudi Arabia last week to mend strained relations between the two countries’ old allies. Relations have apparently not improved since Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), took over control of the country.

Relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, which have centered around energy and defense for decades, were severely strained by the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Adding to the mood was US President Joe Biden’s remarks describing MbS as a “outcast.” Things got worse after Russia’s attack on Ukraine last February when Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter, refused help to keep energy prices in check.

As usual, officials said the Brinken-MbS talks were fruitful, and the two leaders raised concerns about Saudi Arabia’s support for the evacuation of US troops from Sudan, the need for political dialogue in Yemen, and the need for Yemen’s normalization. A full range of regional and bilateral issues were discussed, including possibilities. In addition to the Kingdom’s human rights issue, there is also the issue of its relationship with Israel. To strengthen bilateral relations, Mr. Blinken also attended meetings of the Gulf Cooperation Council and met with other regional allies.

His visit comes against the backdrop of rapid changes affecting alliances in the Middle East. In March this year, China brokered a rapprochement between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. In another landmark change, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad was invited back to the Arab League last month for the first time since the start of a 12-year civil war in which the regime has been backed by Russia and Iran.

There are so many facets to the two countries’ alliance and their expectations of each other, and while they both have many expectations of each other, they seem uncompromising in their positions.

In addition to boosting its nuclear capabilities, Saudi Arabia has offered assurances that the United States will cooperate with any Iranian threat, despite the two countries showing amicable attitudes recently, including the restoration of diplomatic routes, according to media reports. I hope There are also signs that Saudi Arabia wants to be left alone on human rights issues, free from US interference. Moreover, Saudi Arabia conditioned such demands on the issue of improving relations with Israel.

This position largely follows the same pattern that other Arab countries have adopted to accept Israel’s existence. Morocco won US concessions on Western Sahara. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has improved access to the latest US weapons. And earlier, Egypt had received huge amounts of aid from the United States in exchange for a peace treaty with Israel.

But given the lack of trust Saudi Arabia currently has among US lawmakers and leaders, this could backfire. But the obvious reason behind this appears to be a Saudi ploy to profit from both sides.

This negotiation model may not be the only way to approach the issue, and it may be more to the Saudis’ advantage to avoid this indirect approach, which can lead to uncertain outcomes. With that in mind, Saudi Arabia should consider the option of moving unilaterally toward normalizing relations with Israel.

This could represent a positive response from the US side if Saudi Arabia takes the first step towards establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, as it would address the current lack of goodwill at the US Capitol. could lead to further concessions from Saudi Arabia. American.

In addition to the issue of being the United States’ major defense partner in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia also wants to be designated as the United States’ Major Defense Partner (MDP) in addition to extending Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty to Saudi Arabia. there is Arabia.

It is highly unlikely that the United States will agree to such demands. Because it would be a promise to Riyadh that would legally oblige the US to consider an attack on Saudi Arabia as an attack on the US, and it might even not be. Obtain necessary support from NATO member states.

The Biden administration has promised to work toward normalizing relations between Israel and Saudi Arabia, but last month’s visit to Riyadh by U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan made no visible progress.

Moreover, the optics could give the illusion that the United States is particularly upset that Saudi Arabia is refusing to supply additional oil to the United States at concessional rates. But in fact, this is not the root reason, but the main reason is that cuts in oil production lead to higher oil prices around the world, and getting the cheapest oil on the planet has become a habit. It is the American consumer who is in the middle of the day. . In fact, Saudi Arabia has fallen to the third largest oil exporter to the United States after Canada and Mexico.

Overall, the visit will appease the current de facto ruler, a former ally of the United States, who has expressed views on Saudi Arabia’s position as a ploy to antagonize China and the United States to improve relations with the United States. It appeared to be an effort by the President of the United States to try. each other for the greatest benefit to the kingdom. MbS believes the only potential in the Middle East lies with Saudi Arabia, so both the US and China would prefer to stand near Saudi Arabia.

However, in this ruse, the balance seems to tip in favor of China rather than the United States, although in reality the Saudis could lose a lot if they abandon the United States entirely in favor of China. be. What’s more, in this one-win game, both MbS and Biden, who pose as emotional foes, are trying to outsmart each other and gain the upper hand, with each country falling behind in this personal battle. there is

(Assad Mirza is a senior political commentator based in Delhi.) US-Saudi Relations: Stalemate Continues – Weekly Voice

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