why greater saudius engagement is needed now more than ever
Last Updated : GMT 19:07:01
Arab Today, arab today
Arab Today, arab today
Last Updated : GMT 19:07:01
Arab Today, arab today

Why greater Saudi-US engagement is needed now, more than ever

Arab Today, arab today

why greater saudius engagement is needed now more than ever

Abdel Aziz Aluwaisheg

 At the Manama Dialogue last weekend, several Western ministers had much to say about the Jamal Khashoggi killing and the need for accountability for that crime. US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis delivered one of the most measured responses, especially compared to the statements made by some American lawmakers, who called for harsh measures or even a break with Saudi Arabia. In my opinion, there is no better time than the present to bolster US-Saudi engagement.

Mattis’ response was very close to that expressed by Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. Speaking at the regional security conference in Bahrain on Saturday, he said: “The murder of Jamal Khashoggi in a diplomatic facility must concern us all greatly.” He added: “Failure… to adhere to international norms and the rule of law undermines regional stability at a time when it is needed most. As President (Donald) Trump noted, ‘we’re going to get to the bottom of it.’ So, within our democratic form of government in the United States, we recognized it, and President Trump has called for congressional involvement in the matter.”

Mattis indicated that the US is currently considering the implications of this incident within its broader strategic framework, based on balancing US “twin imperatives” of protecting American interests and holding those responsible accountable.

He reconfirmed that the US’ “respect for the Saudi people is undiminished, a respect solidified in 1945 when President Franklin Roosevelt and Saudi King Ibn Saud met in Bitter Lake aboard USS Quincy.”

Thus, the Trump administration, while reiterating its longstanding commitment to its strategic partnership with Saudi Arabia, is suggesting that a thorough and transparent investigation into the crime is essential for the health of that partnership.

Meanwhile, the Saudi position was eloquently articulated by Al-Jubeir at the Manama Dialogue. Al-Jubeir reassured attendees that the Saudi-US relationship is “ironclad,” while also expressing that Riyadh is taking the investigation seriously and will hold those responsible to account.

On the other hand, some US members of Congress, including Republicans and long-time supporters of Trump, have gone much further by questioning the value of maintaining the US commitment to Saudi Arabia -- despite the obvious and essential strategic interest of this relationship.

Some in the media have also gone wild in their analysis and speculation about the future of the Saudi-US partnership. Some US commentators have called for a complete rupture in that relationship, while a minority has also called for a pivot toward Iran instead, despite Tehran’s history of aggression towards the US and its regional allies.

On the Saudi side, social media has also gone wild with anti-US rhetoric because of perceived bias in its handling of the affair, with unreasonable calls for abandoning Riyadh’s strategic relationship with Washington. Many accounts might have been fake, but some were real. One Saudi journalist imagined that, if the US took punitive actions, America and the entire world would face an economic disaster, with the price of a barrel of oil going up to $200 or even $400. He also suggested that the price of oil could be denominated in Chinese yuan instead of the dollar. The turmoil, he suggested, could throw the Middle East and the entire Muslim world into the arms of Iran.

While the two governments are working to defuse the situation, there are unreasonable voices on both sides that are calling for an escalation in tensions. However, because of the crisis and the challenges facing the region, I believe these voices should be ignored and that two governments need to engage more, not less. I will suggest five reasons why that should be the case.

First, Saudi Arabia and the US are both interested in a speedy, transparent and robust investigation into the Khashoggi murder and the whole world is watching. By closely engaging with Riyadh, the US could help persuade Congress and the American public, as well as the rest of the world, of the results of the investigation.

 Second, Saudi Arabia has started a reassessment of security organizations, starting with its external intelligence agency. The US has much experience of security organizations going astray, and has had to take corrective measures. As such, it could provide advice, expertise and knowledge on the matter; including the laws governing these organizations, the rules of engagement and operational methods. The US is already quite familiar with Saudi security agencies, having worked closely with them and provided much of their training and equipment.

Third, the dangers facing the region — from Iran’s malign activities to terrorism — require that the two countries continue to work closely together to counter them. If the US reduced its footprint or its commitment, Iran may be emboldened and other superpowers may try to fill that vacuum.

Fourth, the US and Saudi Arabia need to coordinate their energy policies to maintain stability in the oil markets. Ensuring the flow of oil and freedom of navigation in the region requires close cooperation between the two countries.

Fifth, Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 provides a promise to transform the Saudi economy — and the region’s — into new levels of prosperity and sustainability. American companies in particular are well placed to benefit from this process and reap significant rewards for themselves and the US economy.

Close and constant Saudi-US engagement is a strategic imperative. It is necessary to ensure the region’s stability and prosperity and to address regional crises, from confronting terrorism and Iran’s revolutionary guards to Syria, Yemen, the reconstruction of Iraq, and now the Khashoggi affair. Calls for a break in that relationship are unwise and counterproductive.

From: Arabnews

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why greater saudius engagement is needed now more than ever why greater saudius engagement is needed now more than ever


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