Saudi Arabia’s lampooning of US highlights fundamental issues
An article written by Prince Turki Al-Faisal in Arab News last month, entitled “America should laugh with the Kingdom, not scowl,” highlighted some very pertinent points. Prince Turki is the former chief of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Directorate, co-founder and trustee of the King Faisal Foundation and son of King Faisal.
It is important that platforms such as Arab News take the opportunity to highlight the sensitive topics that were raised by Prince Turki, which are normally shied away from and hidden blandly among politics and diplomacy. It allows the points to be discussed with gravity; it adds weight and legitimacy to have these points voiced by someone with the appropriate background, experience and position. It demonstrates to the international community that the Arab world does understand the complexities and endorse the same ethics and moral code that we see in places we admire in the West.
In both his article and a following interview with Arab News’ “Frankly Speaking,” some of the most important geopolitical issues, particularly those affecting the Gulf and the surrounding region, were highlighted. The overall message is that all nations, with the support of the UN, need to focus on peace and working together to stabilize all countries affected by conflict, while holding accountable those who continue conflict or disrupt peace.
With regards to current US-Saudi relations, Prince Turki wisely pointed out that every relationship has its ups and downs and suggested that both countries need to focus on their “shared interest in finding peace in the Middle East, combating terrorism, and challenging Iran’s aggression.” Yes, the Kingdom has refused to increase oil production at the US’ request, but this is in line with the decision of OPEC+ to limit production following COVID-19 to stabilize oil prices for the good of everyone. The recent increases in oil prices in the US are partly due to its own reduced production for environmental reasons, but mainly due to increased insurance costs as a result of the Ukraine-Russia war and the sanctions placed upon Moscow due to its aggression. This reflects the balanced policy that Saudi Arabia follows as the largest oil producer in the region.
During the interview, Prince Turki pointed out the double standards in the reaction of the West’s media and governments with regards to several issues. Saudi Arabia has financially supported the plight of the Ukrainian refugees, as have many other Gulf Cooperation Council countries and indeed many nations across the world. However, there has been much sadness about the way the Western media discusses the Ukrainian refugees as almost being more deserving of aid and humanity when compared to those from Arab or African nations. There has been a great deal of support and media attention on their suffering — as indeed there should be — but there has been much less about the seven-year suffering of the people in Yemen. And people have forgotten the refugees of Syria, Palestine and Sudan.
We need to stand together as an international community and defy and publicly hold to account those forces who do not abide by peace and ceasefires.
Dr. Bashayer Al-Majed
While the West has sanctioned Russia, Israel still faces no consequences for its occupation of Palestine and the Houthi militia in Yemen has been removed from the US’ list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations despite its increased attacks on Saudi Arabia and the UAE and its breaking of ceasefires in Yemen. The group continues to threaten the security of the area, including important international shipping lanes, and the safe continuation of oil production. Of course, sanctions should be applied to Russia while it continues its aggression upon Ukraine, but all aggression should be similarly opposed.
The US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan last year left an opening for the Taliban to take back control. One of the results of this has been that, “in the last six months, women and girls in Afghanistan have not had access to a full and inclusive education,” as discussed in a Conservative Home article I co-wrote with UK MP Rehman Chishti, a former UK special envoy for religious freedom or belief. While the Taliban have promised to stand up for equal rights for all Afghan citizens, including maintaining equality and education for women, they should be closely observed and held to account by the global community.
Despite so much focus on those taking unfair and violent advantage of others, there is hope. The US has reiterated its commitment to Saudi security against the Houthi militia. And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a successful meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman aimed at rebuilding their relations and developing economic ties. Prince Turki took an optimistic stance, reminding us that, as has been seen in Afghanistan over several generations, regardless of how hard some powers try, they cannot forcibly impose their values and way of life on a nation’s people — the people will resist and prevail.
We need to stand together as an international community and defy and publicly hold to account those forces who do not abide by peace and ceasefires. The consequences should be for all who use terror and aggression to gain power over others, with no double standards like those seen in how the international community has dealt with the invasions of Ukraine and Palestine. The Arab world and the West have had strong, mutually beneficial ties for many years; and with all the global economic and climate challenges we face, we need to continue to foster these positive relations.
There are other challenges too, both for the West and the Arab world: Fundamentals like ensuring gender equality, equal employment laws, equal pay and equal opportunities for women to reach leadership positions, both in the corporate world and in government. These are the things that will lead to stronger nations and a stronger, interlinked international community.
We need more people to use their position and voice to clearly raise these important issues on public platforms and we need more media outlets to not shy away from publishing them.
- Dr. Bashayer Al-Majed is a professor of law at Kuwait University and visiting fellow at Oxford. Twitter: @BashayerAlMajed