Saudi-US ties set for new heights

Updated 17 June 2016

Saudi-US ties set for new heights

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s high-profile US visit is very important in political, economic and security terms. Saudi Arabia and the United States are longstanding allies. They have not always seen eye to eye. Few allies do. But the strength of their alliance has always seen these differences overcome.
There have been differences over Washington’s rapprochement with Iran which the US did without taking into account Tehran’s foul play in the region. The move emboldened Iran which continues to meddle in the affairs of its neighboring countries. Saudi Arabia also urged Obama’s early intervention in Syria. The US administration chose to ignore the advice. The resultant ruin of Syria has destroyed the lives of millions. It has flooded neighboring states with refugees. It has built a comfortable nest for Daesh terrorists.
In Yemen, the Kingdom had to act to check the Iranian-backed Houthi insurgency and restore the legitimate government through Operation Decisive Storm.
Unfortunately, Washington has wanted to believe the government in Tehran is part of the regional solution. The fact is, Iran is, along with Israel, the core regional problem.
Despite these differences, the Saudi-US ties remain robust and the visit of the deputy crown prince for the third time testifies to that.
The Americans recognize the importance of their Saudi ally. This is a time of unprecedented danger in the Middle East and North Africa. At such an hour, Washington is looking to reliable partners. The Kingdom has never been anything less. The deputy crown prince and his large delegation clearly talked security with the Americans. Saudi Arabia has long been in the front-line in the battle against Al-Qaeda and Daesh. It has defeated one terror wave. It is now grappling successfully with a second. It has readily shared its knowledge and expertise with other nations, not least the Americans.
Washington of course is the Kingdom’s largest trading partner. It is a major source of defense equipment for our armed forces. The deputy crown prince and his delegation arrived in America with details of the transformational Saudi Vision 2030. One part of the full-on development of the non-oil economy, is the fostering of advanced manufacturing. This includes defense equipment. American defense suppliers will have been eager to hear details of this part of Saudi Vision 2030. Silicon Valley will have been no less interested to see how they can take advantage of the Vision. Technology and knowledge transfer with the Arab world’s largest economy offer clear commercial opportunities.
At a security level, the top commanders in the Saudi royal party are in regular contact with their opposite numbers in the US defense and security establishments. The face-to-face meetings during this visit have clearly advanced these relationships. It is one thing for countries to be in formal alliance. Personal meetings cement these links. They build all-important trust.
And trust is key in the alliance between the Kingdom and the United States. There have been strenuous efforts from some quarters to undermine this. There have been malign attempts to cast Saudis as the source of terror. Islamophobia is a great evil. And because of the Kingdom’s crucial position at the heart of Islam, it is the obvious target for this bigotry. The Obama administration knows that it has to push back against these wild lies. The royal visit will have been a reminder that it probably needs to try harder. Strong allies must protect each other’s interests and defend their integrity.
There is no doubting that the deputy crown prince’s visit has been greeted with excitement in the States. The ambitions of Saudi Vision 2030 are compelling. They are reinvigorating an economy that has already made remarkable strides. But they signal something else. The Kingdom has long exercised its considerable influence through quiet diplomacy. It has always favored the projection of soft power.
However, those who wanted to interfere in the Arab world, took this as a sign of weakness. Operation Decisive Storm and Saudi involvement in Syrian and Iraqi anti-terror airstrikes will have come as a shock. The Kingdom has demonstrated that it has both the will and the power to counter outside meddling. In Yemen, it has acted with Washington’s support and encouragement. The puzzle has always been that the source of the tragedy in Yemen, Iraq and Syria has been Iran. The US nuclear deal that ended economic sanctions empowered Iran and added to the challenge that the Kingdom and its regional allies face. But, it is heartening that the US is realizing that Iran needs to be reined in.
Hopefully, the world will realize how inappropriate it has been to give a free hand to Iran to push forward its evil designs.


Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.