United States was the destination for Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s this time around. This was a first meeting of historic proportions between an Arab Muslim leader and US President Donald Trump.
As a result of this meeting Saudi-American relations stand restored to their right path. The lean years have now ended and a different phase has begun with a new administration that is well aware of the US’ historic relations. This has been the case with consecutive administrations – except for that of Barack Obama, which was an anomaly and we cannot measure anything by it.
A Russian media outlet said that Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman charmed Trump while many American dailies – described as “anti-Saudi Arabia” in journalistic circles – admitted there was chemistry between the two. It is clear that a different phase is being built and a new set of relations is being established.
They share the same vision and this was evident in their agreement over several issues, most importantly on Iran being the two countries’ mutual enemy. They also agreed on the need to intensify coordination to combat and eliminate terrorism. But who are those angry at this meeting?
Expansion of terror
Radical groups affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaeda and ISIS launched attacks against Trump, either mocking or warning him. If we take a simple look at the entire scene, we notice that terror has not revived, expanded and felt reassured like the case was during the Obama regime. There is no doubt that Obama’s approach of ignoring complicated matters contributed to the expansion of terrorism and emergence of ISIS.
Cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States has led to stability in the region and eliminated chaos. There is evidence to suggest this. In the late 1990s, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden wanted to target the World Trade Center twin towers. He discussed the plan with those around him but decided that the attack must be carried out at several targets at the same time.
He planned to attack the US for the sole purpose of harming its alliance with Saudi Arabia. He was hoping that the then-US President George Bush will attack Riyadh like he attacked Baghdad. Bin Laden thought the best way to achieve this was to choose the largest number of Saudis to carry out the operation. The plan was thus postponed to September 11, 2001, and it was successfully executed.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince’s meeting with Trump is a historic landmark that takes forward the traditional legacy between two countries with mutual and intertwined interestsTurki Aldakhil
However not everything worked according to plan as instead, Saudi Arabia and the Bush administration launched the most significant security, ideological and political campaign against al-Qaeda and defeated it in many places across the world. These terrorist designs confirm there are extremist plans against the two countries’ relations.
During the first phone call between Saudi King Salman and Trump, the former reiterated that Bin Laden was from Muslim Brotherhood. The King added that Muslim Brotherhood provides a breeding ground for al-Qaeda and its aim is to cause rift in the alliance between the US and Saudi Arabia.
When US Secretary of Defense James Mattis entered the conference room for talks with Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the accompanying delegation, he told Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir: “Hello... always good to see you alive... The Iranians tried to murder you.”
Angry at rapprochement
The Iranians understood this message well. They were angry at this meeting and this rapprochement and felt disappointed because years of truce have come to an end. Trump had addressed Khamenei saying he was not Obama and that he was different. The prince’s successful visit came as a heavy blow to terrorists and to Iranian regime and its wings across the world.
Iran contributed to nurturing sectarianism and hostility between Sunnis and Shiites. During the 300 years of Saudi history, no Saudi Shiite was subjected to insults or violation of his rights. During the second Saudi state, Imam Faisal bin Turki (1788-1865) sent forces to protect the Shiite people of Ahsa and Qatif and defended them against Sunni violators of the law.
Late King Abdulaziz met with the people from cities with high Shiite population, discussed their affairs and met their demands.
Saudi Arabia is a civil state and not an ideological state like Iran. Saudi Deputy Crown Prince’s meeting with Trump is a historic landmark that takes forward the traditional legacy between two countries with mutual and intertwined interests. This is the normal course of action.
This is the beginning of a new diplomatic era between the two countries and the days to come will reflect some of its manifestations. Trump will now be more capable of understanding the challenges confronting Gulf countries and primarily Saudi Arabia. The major challenge is confronting terrorism and Iran’s interferences and violations.
The article was first published in Al Sharq al-Awsat on March 21, 2016.
Turki Aldakhil is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. He began his career as a print journalist, covering politics and culture for the Saudi newspapers Okaz, Al-Riyadh and Al-Watan. He then moved to pan-Arab daily Al-Hayat and pan-Arab news magazine Al-Majalla. Turki later became a radio correspondent for the French-owned pan-Arab Radio Monte Carlo and MBC FM. He proceeded to Elaph, an online news magazine and Alarabiya.net, the news channel’s online platform. Over a ten-year period, Dakhil’s weekly Al Arabiya talk show “Edaat” (Spotlights) provided an opportunity for proponents of Arab and Islamic social reform to make their case to a mass audience. Turki also owns Al Mesbar Studies and Research Centre and Madarek Publishing House in Dubai. He has received several awards and honors, including the America Abroad Media annual award for his role in supporting civil society, human rights and advancing women’s roles in Gulf societies. He tweets @TurkiAldakhil.