Members of the Shoura Council, business leaders and experts have called on the US and Gulf states to work together to undermine Iranian efforts to destabilize the Middle East.
They have also urged the US to formulate and adopt a fair Middle East policy, exert more efforts to settle the problems in war-torn Syria and Yemen, and join hands to boost counterterrorism cooperation.
Members of the Shoura Council expressed hopes that the talks of US President Barack Obama with Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman, and his meeting with GCC leaders on Thursday will go a long way in strengthening ties. Mona A. Al-Mushait, a Shoura member, said that “Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US has had strong foundations based on mutual respect, shared interests and cooperation.”
Al-Mushait said that “both countries recognize the significance of regional stability and counterterrorism.” “President Obama’s visit to the Kingdom is very important in many respects: First of all, in combating terrorism; secondly, pushing for justice and solutions to the Yemeni and Syrian crisis,” she added. “Moreover, Iranian intervention in the affairs of Arab countries and its support for terrorism needs to be addressed on priority,” said the Shoura member.
She also advocated the need for “deeper cooperation through expanding Saudi engagement with the US in the fields of trade and the economy.”
Al-Mushait noted that almost 150,000 students and their families currently live in the US, promoting greater understanding between our two peoples. “I foresee golden opportunities for the two countries to work closely following the Kingdom’s transformation that shows more optimism and hope,” she observed.
Referring to the decades-old ties between the Kingdom and the US, another Shoura member, Hoda Al-Helaissi, said that the “Saudi-US relation has been a valuable and model relationship … but it has also had its hiccups, especially during the last few years … President Obama’s visit to the Kingdom is important on many levels, especially on political and economic fronts,” said Al-Helaissi, who is also the vice chairperson of the Shoura’s Foreign Affairs Committee.
Referring to the talks with GCC leaders, she said, “I believe that both sides will benefit from this visit and hopefully it will pave the way to finding appropriate solutions to the crises in the region.”
She further said that the two parties “need to keep the channels of dialogue open, if we are to promote understanding and tolerance, fight negative media portrayal and expose the true image of Islam.”
Referring to the high-profile GCC-EU summit scheduled for Thursday, Saleh Al-Khathlan, a professor of political science at Riyadh-based King Saud University (KSU), said that “the fact that this summit comes few months before the end of Obama’s presidency means that GCC countries shouldn’t put much expectation on it … It is a well-known fact that US presidents at the end of their terms tend to avoid taking any foreign policy initiative that has any value,” he added.
Al-Khathlan advised the Gulf states to focus on the post-Obama administration from now and follow very closely the campaigns of the potential presidential candidates to know how they would deal with the region once in office. “In the meantime, there should be no worries that the US will carry on with its historical commitments to the security of the Gulf,” said the academic.
He said that “Washington had no alternatives than to commit to the region for the stability of oil flow and big arms market GCC countries offer.”
“Saudi officials need also to go beyond this summit and consider explaining the new foreign policy that has been implemented since 2015,” he said. This policy took the whole world by surprise, he said.
Referring to Saudi foreign policy, Al-Khathlan said that American and Western officials have been used to a Saudi policy that is “quite peace-oriented and risk-free.” “Now, these have all changed and observers keep wondering as to why this change of external behavior and where it is going to take the Kingdom,” quipped the professor. “So, there is need for a lot of effort to explain the new Saudi policy and reassure the allies,” he observed.
Commenting on the visit of Obama from US perspectives, Thomas H. Nelson, a renowned American attorney, told Arab News that “it is my strongest hope that President Obama’s visit to Riyadh and his talks with King Salman will place Saudi-US relations back on track.” “For years, the two countries have supported one another in this critical region of the world to their mutual benefit and to the benefit of many, many third parties,” said Nelson, via e-mail from the US. He said that “the threats facing the Middle East are more intense and great as they never have been in the past, and the possibility of further destabilization must be avoided at all costs.”
“I think this can best be achieved by cordial relations based upon mutual appreciation and respect,” said Nelson, who has been involved in human rights and transnational consulting.
On the business front, the US is a close ally of the Kingdom and the GCC besides being the largest partner, said Abdulrahman Al-Zamil, chief of the Council of Saudi Chambers (CSC). He said that the strained relations will hamper commercial ties. Al-Zamil urges the US to adopt a fair Middle East policy that can contribute to peace and security in the region.
He said that the Iranian policy of meddling in the affairs of the Gulf states must be checked to restore peace in the region.
Source: Arab News