The turbulent relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia appears to have stabilized in recent months, culminating in last week’s positive comments by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about the importance of the bilateral ties.
MBS, the 38-year-old Saudi leader, chose to speak in English during his first interview with a Western outlet since 2019.
This allowed millions of Americans to hear from the crown prince and debunk several myths often believed in the West.
“The Crown Prince made it clear in the interview that US-Saudi relations had turned a big corner and were now in a very good place,” Saudi analyst Ali Shihabi told Al Arabiya English.
Speaking from one of the first islands in the Red Sea that is expected to be opened up for tourists, MBS provided a glimpse of the massive transformation underway in a country previously only known for hot weather, deserts and oil.
Ties between the US and Saudi Arabia since the beginning of the Biden administration reached one of their lowest points in decades. Campaign pledges by Joe Biden to make Saudi Arabia “the pariah they are” fell flat, and the US president made a trip to the Kingdom last summer as he sought to convince Riyadh not to slash oil production.
In the aftermath of the Saudi and OPEC+ decision to cut oil output, Biden administration officials dangled sanctions as a threat before accusing Saudi Arabia of siding with Russia.
This all came after the Biden administration targeted Saudi Arabia and the UAE by freezing arms sales to both and criticizing them for their role in the Yemen war.
But things have since turned around, and US-Saudi cooperation has seen significant progress in reducing violence in Yemen. The US and Saudi have also worked together to release prisoners of war in Ukraine and provide economic support to Kyiv, coordinate on the Sudan violence, and most recently, work on a deal to normalize ties between Riyadh and Israel.
Saudi-Israeli normalization is being pushed by the Biden administration, and a peace deal would go a long way in Congress, including with many progressive democrats who oppose strong US ties with Saudi Arabia.
MBS said if the Biden administration succeeded in brokering a Saudi-Israeli deal, it could be the “biggest historical deal since the end of the Cold War.”
During his interview with Fox News, MBS touched on issues that resonate directly with the average American household.
Economically, he pointed to the strong ties that unite Washington and Riyadh.
He also highlighted the Kingdom as the biggest purchaser of American weapons, saying that Saudi Arabia was economically critical for arms exporters and manufacturers in the US.
The military and security ties between the US and Saudi Arabia strengthen Saudi Arabia and are a boon for the US in the region and globally. “You don’t want that to be shifted, and you don’t want to see Saudi Arabia shifting their armament to another place,” MBS said, in an apparent reference to potential options for purchasing military equipment from US adversaries, including Russia and China.
But MBS said a security pact with the US would provide guarantees for both countries, which Saudi Arabia is keen on.
He said such an agreement would save “effort and headache from the Saudi side of not switching to other places” for weapons and security.
During an interview with CNN, Firas Maksad, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, called MBS’ appearance on Fox News a “landmark interview.”
“This is no doubt… the comeback interview for MBS, at least as far as Western public opinion is concerned,” said Maksad, also an adjunct professor at George Washington University.
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