It was in October 2018 that President Donald Trump is reported to have made a remark highly critical remark about the house of al-Saud. He had warned the Saudi king Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud that the latter would not last in power for two weeks without the backing of the U.S. military. “You have to pay for our military,” according to Trump.
Trump’s highly inflammatory remark, which apparently hit the core of the uncompromising pride of the Arabs, was swallowed but did not go down well with the kingdom and its people.
This may well be the reason or one of the reasons for course correction for the vision-driven budding Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who wants to see a new Saudi kingdom with its rightful place in the league of frontline nations of the world.
In less than five years it all happened. Taking the world by surprise, the Saudi kingdom has positioned itself in world politics as a frontline player. The restoration of diplomatic relationship between Iran and Saudi Arabia has accelerated the process of normalization in the Middle East; it has certainly lowered tensions in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula.
This paradigm shift in the Saudi kingdom’s diplomacy brought about discreetly and with swiftness reflects the impressive statesmanship with which the KSA Crown Prince is stewarding his country by removing all the irritants that threatened its external security and the need of US as a guarantor for its internal and external security.
Saudi Arabia’s relationship with Turkey improved tremendously when it deposited $5billion in Turkey’s central bank through the Saudi Development Fund. To top it all, kingdom’s opening of economic and defence channel with China places it in a commanding position to balance its relationships with the US and the West.
For its internal security, the loyalty of the budding youth of the nation is the best guarantee for the royal family against any uprising against the progressive reforms being unfolded by the Crown Prince.
The youth have been won over by meeting their demand of social reforms and freedoms in society. In fact, they got more in recent years than they had hoped for.
The governments and analysts are divided on the China-brokered diplomatic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The US National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby in a press briefing on March 14, 2023 is reported to have stated : “We welcome the agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which we hope can lead to an end to the Yemen war and attacks on Saudi Arabian soil by Iran-backed rebels in Yemen. But that remains to be seen.”
All is not well with the waning American diplomacy in the oil rich region. The Vision 2030 is Saudi Arabia’s ambitious economic reform plan aimed at reducing its dependence on oil production by diversifying into industry, logistics, tourism and other sectors. With liberalisation in Saudi social, religious and economic policies and swift action on ground, the kingdom appears determined to translate this vision into reality soon.
The restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran and China’s deeper focus on the region open up new opportunities for the countries in the region. What all this change could mean for Pakistan will be discussed next week.
(To be continued)
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023