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Saudi Arabia’s soft power

Mohammed Al Saad

Published: Updated:

During the past years, and specifically since the beginning of the so-called Arab Spring in 2011, Saudi Arabia in particular has been subjected to a massive war in which opponents, allies, brothers and even our own people have been involved, people we know us well but who attacked us both in secret and overtly?

They agreed that the country was aging and that it was time to finish it off. They set plans and prepared for them early on, starting with the Gulf War, through the terrorist acts of the 1990s, and not ending with September 11th and the Al Qaeda and ISIS war.

Each party had their own agenda and their own accounts to settle with the kingdom, its leadership and its people, and also grab their piece of the pie that is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, Riyadh dealt with this “global” war with many forms of political, diplomatic and security options. Some attacks it considered to have crossed the line, warranting direct response, such as the Peninsula Shield in Bahrain - its eastern side - or forming an Arab-Islamic coalition to confront the Houthi coup in Yemen against legitimate rule and becoming an Iranian arm in the Arab world. It also includes supporting the Egyptian people's choice to oust the Muslim Brotherhood revolutionaries in 2013, as Egypt is an Arab and Sunni state. Other issues Saudi Arabia dealt with through politics, diplomacy or non-interference such as Syria, Libya, Lebanon, and the relationship with the Obama administration, etc.

The Saudis were surprised by the size of the enemies, even those who disguised themselves for decades as friends, partners, and allies in the West and East, left their mark in the dangerous situations Saudi Arabia faced, their weapons smuggled to our enemies killing and wounding our sons. Internal affairs also experienced struggles that were seized upon by the leftist and human rights organizations to pressure and smear the image of the kingdom while trying to impose their agenda on the country.

I do not exaggerate when I say that every inch of the kingdom’s political, religious, social, economic, security and military body received a stab or betrayal from its enemies. And while it pained the body, it pushed it to be stronger than before and more bold in direct confrontation with the enemies.

That policy varied from an iron fist to a velvet touch, using the means appropriate to the situation.

At the same time, Riyadh activated its soft power policy and continued to build its media system to be able to convey the Saudi viewpoint to the world. The Saudi Research Company - a private media company - launched Bloomberg Asharq Channel and Al Arabiya also launched a group of platforms. The Ministry of Culture started a mega project to transmit Saudi history, civilization and the arts with all their richness
and wonder to the world, with great success. The Ministry of Tourism has done a great job of promoting Saudi attractions in the Red Sea. The Ministry of Sports invited the Dakar Rally to cross desert, mountains and plateaus, and others discover the beauty and diversity of Saudi Arabia. The Qiddiya project and the NEOM project are two hubs geared towards tourism, entertainment and a new lifestyle. The Line, the city launched by His Highness the Crown Prince is also set to be a hub for the technology industry and a flash of the future in the middle of the Arabian desert.

All of it is a soft power that does not aim to disguise facts about the Saudis, as many do, but rather to convey our true point of view, our thinking, our lives and our ambitions to the region and the world. We discovered that there are many issues that are no longer relevant and that abandoning them will remove the negative image others may have. These stereotypes, which are not true, stuck with us for decades, and the only way to shake them off is through hard work and an outlook towards the future, firmly rooted in our true narrative.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, Al Okaz.

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Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.