The Saudis are No Suckers

The US-Saudi relationship was always based on oil in return for security. There were those Americans who lately mistakenly presumed that the United States no longer needed Saudi Arabia. This is wrong. The US will need the KSA as a staging ground for any military action against Iran after Tehran lashes out against the outside world with WMD terrorist attacks subsequent to the joint American-Israeli destruction of the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Is America ready to live with permanently exorbitant gasoline/diesel prices? I think not. Iran undoubtedly plans to conquer the Gulf states and America would be particularly well advised to deter Tehran from doing that by concluding a defense pact with Riyadh. Make no mistake, the future is at stake for the KSA. While it is true that MBS is far from as adept at diplomacy as he is at domestic politics he surely has a point. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia finds itself under an existential threat from the Islamic Republic of Iran and furthermore finds itself stuck with an unsympathetic American administration that is not well disposed towards Saudi Arabia’s existential security concerns despite those overlapping entirely with American strategic interests. The Biden administration has refused to agree to a US-Saudi defense pact despite the industrialized world being at least a decade away from phasing out gasoline and diesel. 

If I were MBS I would first have fully normalized relations with Israel and then mobilized major American Jewish organizations on behalf of the cause of concluding a US-Saudi defense pact. This would have been a smart political plan. The current exorbitant oil prices does not make such a treaty an easy sell to Congress and it would be difficult to justify without full prior normalization. MBS also needs to internalize that torture must end in the Kingdom, this is intolerable and makes the KSA look very bad and rightly so. MBS does not really have a foreign policy strategy, only various tactics. In 2021 he offered the US a grand bargain, full Saudi normalization with Israel in return for a US-Saudi defense pact. The Biden administration declined the offer and MBS tried instead making America jealous by entering “extramarital relationships” with Moscow and Beijing as well as by pressuring America through exorbitant oil prices that may eventually lead the world economy into a recession. America is like all nations primarily concerned with promoting its own interests and MBS apparently failed to appropriately articulate the common American-Saudi strategic interest. Although extraordinarily brilliant, MBS is clearly a highly unconventional person and so are his strange attempts at pressuring the American superpower into entering into a defense pact with the Desert Kingdom.

Published by Daniella Bartfeld

Daniella Bartfeld is the founding director of the Aliyah Organization.

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