It has been almost three and a half years since King Salman was crowned a ruler of Saudi Arabia. This is a little less than the custom presidential term of leaders of democratic western countries. However, his reign was marked with deep and influential economic and political reforms and transformations. The effectiveness and impact of these reforms have surpassed Saudi Arabia and the region, and exceeded plenty of political experiences in the world.
Saudi Arabia’s rapid and giant transformations contradicted all the expectations and speculations about a state that has long been described as conservative and traditional, and perhaps even resistant to change.
Change exceeded domestic reforms and the restoration of the ancient governance via empowering the young generation that constitutes the largest category of the population, into weaving foreign policies that combine solid alliances with friends and unprecedented decisiveness with all countries that for long fed on the silence of Saudi wisdom.
A challenging phase
The phase during which King Salman was crowned, he decided to bring new blood into the governance by appointing his young Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who became the most influential figure since assuming his post, and who has handled complicated and difficult affairs on the level of political actors in the world since day one of his father’s ascendency to the throne.
It was a very difficult phase that requires vigilance in the face of the threats, which accumulated since the eruption of three waves.
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These waves are: Organized terrorism and the collapse in the stability of several countries in the region due to the so-called Arab Spring, the rise of militias and the collapse of regime structures, and thirdly, the Iranian interferences in the region in a manner that went beyond exporting the revolution into creating crises. This also entails the Iranians attempting to establish a sectarian partisan influence that militarizes chaotic opposition, such as the Houthi militia in Yemen, amid the regress and decline of international organizations and superpowers.
The past years have witnessed major regional political unrest and imposed challenges, which the new foreign policy dealt with according to the vision of King Salman and his crown prince via different strategies, the most important of which created three major paths.
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The first one is redefining Saudi priorities on the foreign policy level, of which the most significant is the war on terrorism with the leading role that the kingdom played, where it launched the Islamic Coalition to fight the pockets of terrorism and the militias of destruction and murder. It succeeded in attracting 41 Arab and Muslim countries for this purpose and asserted that terrorism which targets states’ security and stability is the kingdom’s number one enemy since it’s one of the most targeted countries by terrorists.
The second path, which is read in the context of affirming new policies that raised the slogan of decisiveness, is standing against Iranian interferences. This is especially after Iran tried to exploit the Houthis and turn them from a political bloc into a militia that practices the role of the state within the state in a neighboring country that shares borders with Saudi Arabia. Their aim is to target the kingdom’s security while attempting to make a living out of this to solidify their hijacking of the political situation in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s decisiveness did not stop at launching the Storm Operation in Yemen to support legitimacy, confront Iranian ambitions and defend its strategic depth and its historical concern to support Yemen’s stability. It extended to also adopting a strong and clear policy against Qatar and its dangerous and reckless roles, although it’s part of the structure of the most important Saudi alliances with its neighbors from among Gulf countries.
The third path is the unprecedented dynamism in strengthening relations with influential countries as King Salman visited more than 20 countries since he became king, and received more than 100 leaders until now. This is in addition to the crown prince’s visits of which the last was his tour to the most important capitals of political influence. His visits were not limited to political work, but also included creating trade, technical and cultural alliances.
Achievements and the fight against terrorism
The unusual Saudi activity, in terms of decisiveness and peace, is part of a large transformation led by the massive economic Vision 2030 to solidify the economy via political incentives that are based on attracting global companies in all fields, in addition to the region’s challenges.
A little more than a year ago, it was notable that King Salman made a historical visit to the most important East Asian countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China. At the same time, Prince Mohammed bin Salman was holding extensive talks with Washington that resulted in arranging American President Donald Trump’s first foreign visit, which was to Saudi Arabia.
While there, Trump attended three summits: A Saudi-American summit, a Gulf-American summit and an Islamic-American summit. It was a significant visit that any observer could not ignore its importance and significance and how Mohammed bin Salman planned its details.
The security of the Gulf is one of Saudi Arabia’s priorities in its foreign policy due to history, geography and the great resemblance between political regimes and economic opportunities. This was seen in the strong stance regarding Qatar’s policies and its role in supporting terrorism, and inciting and harboring extremist organizations and figures. A number of countries apart from the boycotting countries that are harmed by Qatar’s double standards also share this stance with Riyadh.
Today, Saudi Arabia raises the slogan of “preemption” renewing its inner home with the youth and redefining its economic form while making major political reforms in parallel with its regional vision. It thus provides solutions and resorts to decisiveness, as seen with addressing Iran’s violations and interferences in Yemen, while resuming its war against terrorism.
All this grants Riyadh negotiating cards of high value that contributed to restoring stability to the most important Arab country, Egypt, supporting Jordan through its economic crisis, strongly contributing to the stability of Bahrain and boycotting the axes of evil, i.e. terrorism, extremist organizations and countries that sponsor all of those!
This article is also available in Arabic.
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.