The relation between Riyadh and Washington is one thing and its image among Arabs is something else.
The negative image is due to decades of intensified media campaigns led by ideological regimes that took the form of states and then transformed into a tool for political conflict. Those who once launched intensified campaigns against Riyadh’s relation with Washington are the ones who today seek to attain similar partnership.
Actual partnership always faces plenty of slander, especially by Arabs, as long as it is a relation between a young Arab state with a state that leads the world.
Saudi Arabia’s approach has always been and continues to be to work with strongest allies; however those with hidden agendas see this relation as part of dependency, subjugation and blind obedience.
History states the complete opposite. Americans came to the kingdom on an invitation from founder King Abdulaziz – may he rest in peace – to guide the country and its people to the greatest treasure back then. They extracted black gold when the British failed or languished.
Saudi Arabia shared the discovery with the Americans in money and power. This is part of mutual interests and sharing the expense until oil company Aramco was nationalized without any political campaigns or speeches or fuss, which distinguishes Arab slogans from the 1950s until today.
The relation between the two countries formed a unique model as Riyadh did not give up its sovereignty and did not give up the Arabs’ eternal cause, Palestine, which remained permanent and only controversial matter.
In exchange, Washington has provided great political support to Riyadh in its major affairs in the region, such as the relation with Iran, the war in Yemen and confronting Sunni and Shiite extremism.
Washington has provided great political support to Riyadh in its major affairs in the region, such as the relation with Iran, the war in Yemen and confronting Sunni and Shiite extremismFares bin Hezam
Trump and the region
It is President Trump who is the focus of attention for us in the region. What he says and decides in the US does not concern us at all. We are not concerned about his problems with his country’s media or about his disputes with his team or his conflicts with neighbors.
It’s worth noting that the number of other political disputes in nine decades can be counted on the fingers of one hand, such as Egypt in 1973, sending fighter aircraft without armament in 1979, Chinese missiles in 1988 and signing the deal with Iran in 2015. These are less than the disputes with Arab brothers.
The Palestinian cause is what those who attack Riyadh focus on although it did not normalize relations with the occupier and did not divide the Palestinians. Instead it sought to launch initiatives to safeguard their rights and establish their state, such as through the King Fahd peace plan in Fes in 1981 and its renewed formula via King Abdullah’s initiative in Beirut in 2002.
Riyadh was targeted because of Jerusalem and its position was distorted to tarnish its reputation. Palestinians demanded it to take a stricter stance with Washington, and according to them, Saudi Arabia must cut ties with the US.
However, at the same time, Palestinians constitute the largest percentage of Arab residents in the US and half a million have US citizenship while among Arabs, they constitute the largest number joining the army.
Therefore, if the Palestinians give up the American passport and withdraw from the American army, then it is right in asking Riyadh to cut ties with Washington.
What’s more important is to review and understand that no rational state gives up its major interests over one controversial issue. Many will say this issue is that of the “collective fate” but can you tamper with such an affair?
What must be noted is comparing Saudi Arabia’s situation with the situation of those calling for cutting relations with the US. Saudi Arabia, which has been a nation in the making for 90 years, has cooperated on education, innovation, technology and learnt about manufacturing and space from the US, which is all of top quality. It has cooperated with it and with others to make its economy among the leading ones in the world.
Therefore, when a developing state decides to endeavor toward the future, this is the appropriate journey. The first world chose to invest in America. China pumped around $2 trillion and Japan and other successful countries did the same. Saudi Arabia put around $2.5 trillion.
When major commercial deals were sealed between Riyadh and Washington, the Arabs distorting facts said Trump looted Saudi Arabia. The fact remains that Riyadh has been spending these funds for years and with very limited returns and some of these funds are recycled to enhance returns by investing in new areas.
The kingdom has benefited by making more profits via investment in technology and the future. This is in addition to transferring these investments to the kingdom. Trump has benefitted by boosting his country’s economy and creating new jobs.
I remember when American Director Michael Moore wanted to attack Saudi Arabia in his movie about September 11, 2001, he alleged how bodyguards from the White House were deployed around the residence of Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan and voiced his fear of the strength of Saudi investment in his country.
His aim was defamation but it ended up as unintentional praise.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Fares bin Hezam is Editor-in-Chief at Al Arabiya Channel.