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New Saudi defense policy outlined

JEDDAH: The disengagement of the West in Middle East conflicts and increasing Iranian interference in the affairs of Arab states are among the major reasons for the evolution of the new Saudi defense doctrine.

This is according to Prince Sultan bin Khaled Al-Faisal, who outlined the fundamentals of the Saudi defense policy during a special address at an event hosted in Washington on Tuesday by the National Council on US-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) and the United States-Gulf Cooperation Council Corporate Cooperation Committee.
“The primary aim of the new defense policy is to defend the homeland, protect Saudi citizens, secure national interests, bolster defense of partner states and strengthen inter-agency partnerships,” he explained through a number of slides.
John Duke Anthony, founding president and chief executive officer of the NCUSAR, moderated the session. It was entitled, “Analyzing and assessing Saudi Arabian defense strategy.”
Prince Sultan, who is a former commander of the Royal Saudi Naval Forces Counter-Insurgency Special Operations Task Force, said numerous variables would determine how the new defense doctrine develops.
“The doctrine’s evolution will depend on conventional capabilities of potential non-friendly countries, spread of unconventional threats (Daesh, Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah) and proliferation of nuclear weapons in the region,” he said.
Experts are unanimous that Saudi Arabia has, under Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, consolidated its place as the preeminent Arab leader, regional stabilizer, and critical bulwark against terrorism and a nuclear Iran.
Talking about Yemen, where the Saudi-led coalition forces are poised for big gains in neutralizing Iran, Prince Sultan said from 2009, Hezbollah advisers and soldiers were fighting alongside Houthis and training them.
He said the nuclear deal with Iran does not guarantee Tehran will not get nuclear weapons. “Therefore, Saudi Arabia will be ready to defend itself,” he said.
Prince Sultan had a 20-year tenure with the Royal Saudi Naval Forces. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Computer Information Systems from King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals and a Master of Military Arts from the US Marine Corps Command and Staff College.
Well-known Saudi security analyst Nawaf Obaid, who was among the select audience, was all praise for Prince Sultan’s presentation.
“From my perspective, it went very well, and Prince Sultan delivered an excellent presentation that surprised a lot of the audience with its coherence and clarity on Saudi national security issues that so few people understand in Washington,” he told Arab News.
Fahad Nazer, who formerly worked at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, told Arab News that Saudi Arabia had been forced to reconfigure its foreign policy posture and to reevaluate many — if not all — its bilateral relationships.
“This was because of the unprecedented turmoil gripping the region, along with the perception that the United States has chosen to disengage from the Middle East,” he said. “We see this new, more assertive foreign policy most clearly in Yemen.”
“Although Saudi officials have described the military campaign in Yemen as a war of necessity — not a war of choice, the coalition’s recent successes on the ground and reports that the Houthis and their allies are on the verge of agreeing to a UN plan, suggests that those who have advocated for a more assertive foreign policy posture will be vindicated,” said Nazer.
“I suspect that once the Houthis and former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s allies agree to being a part of a power-sharing arrangement of some sort — as opposed to imposing their will on the rest of Yemen — the Yemeni government will seek assistance from its allies in the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia, to confront the very serious threat that Daesh and Al-Qaeda pose to Yemen’s security, stability and prosperity,” Nazer added.

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