The impressive major Saudi foreign policy initiatives and military action over the past year speaks volumes about King Salman’s acumen to lead the Kingdom down a new path to be a leader on a regional and global scale in its own right.
Of course, King Salman’s first year on the throne honed in on the fight against terrorism, extremism and taking the lead on determining the outcome of Middle East conflicts in favor of Riyadh’s world view.
King Salman’s approach, known as the Salman Doctrine, is based on the concept that Saudi interests come first and that the Kingdom cannot link its fate to its alliance with the United States or any other country that doubts the Kingdom’s outlook and intentions. The doctrine also embraces Saudi Arabia’s more recent “alliance with its brothers and friends from the Arab and Muslim world.”
A forward-leaning leadership
The Saudi-led anti-Houthi coalition continues to be a major force that seeks not only to settle the Yemeni civil war in a formidable way, but to bring peaceful results.
Both Operation Decisive Storm and the ongoing Operation Restore Hope represent two phases of the multi-nation operation that intends to degrade and destroy Houthi capabilities. This campaign will continue until a peaceful resolution is found through diplomatic negotiations no matter the length of time; Saudi Arabia’s desire to shape Yemen’s future is absolute.
Towards the end of 2015, King Salman’s resolve became more stunning and forward-leaning in terms of leadership of the Arab and Muslim world.
The Kingdom is rising strongly to counter extremism and terrorism in all forms and uniting the Islamic worldDr. Theodore Karasik
The Riyadh Summit of Syrian opposition groups held in December illustrated Saudi Arabia’s requirement for a Syrian settlement. From the kingdom's perspective, the gathering of more than 100 different groups and individuals from the Syrian opposition signaled a robust attempt to make sure all Syrians are represented in any future Syrian political settlement no matter how the outside world sees them.
Clearly, the Kingdom sees a wide-range of oppositionists to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and wants to gather international momentum to recognize them as all part of the settlement process. The bold move sent signals to other countries involved in the Syrian Civil War that Riyadh’s viewpoint is not to be ignored.
Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia’s announcement of an Islamic military alliance illustrated that King intends to unite like-minded countries to defeat extremism in any form in the Middle East and beyond. The Islamic credentials of the Kingdom are at the forefront where the “Muslim faith forbids corruption and destruction in the world and that terrorism constitutes a serious violation of human dignity and rights, especially the right to life and the right to security.” By adding the hefty weight of Islamic creed to Saudi foreign policy in this new form and format, the Kingdom is showing the world its prowess.
Here, the Salman Doctrine is growing again in a forceful way beyond Yemen and the Levant. King Salman and Saudi officials are launching the next phase of Riyadh's assertiveness by demonstrating unity and decisiveness in the region and to international actors who have interests in the Middle East. In other words, the Kingdom is rising strongly to counter extremism and terrorism in all forms and uniting the Islamic world against those who seek to upend Islamic religious values and political goals.
On the cusp of the first anniversary of King Salman’s accession to the throne, Saudi Arabia made clear its intention to expose Iran and its perfidious behavior not only in Arab lands but also, in the long term, throughout the world. The meeting of the Jeddah-based Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) this past week exemplifies King Salman’s intent to uncover Tehran’s perfidy as a major foreign policy priority into his second year on the throne.
The 57-nation OIC released a final communique condemning Iran's mischievous actions following an emergency meeting attended by 24 foreign ministers from across the Muslim world, including Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and Indonesia. It should be noted that the signatories to the OIC communique make up the bulk of the new Saudi-led Islamic military alliance.
Overall, King Salman is setting Saudi Arabia onto a course where the Kingdom’s interests are a national and sacred duty that extends far beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia and its immediate neighbors. It has been a truly remarkable and unprecedented year for King Salman’s foreign policy.
Dr. Theodore Karasik is a Gulf-based analyst of regional geo-political affairs. He received his Ph.D in History from UCLA in Los Angeles, California in four fields: Middle East, Russia, Caucasus, and a specialized sub-field in Cultural Anthropology focusing on tribes and clans.