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Big challenges enhance Saudi-US partnership

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has rectified the path of Saudi-US ties, which have existed for more than 80 years

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Published: Updated:

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has rectified the path of Saudi-US ties, which have existed for more than 80 years. Of course the shape of the alliance and means of cooperation will change, but Riyadh has become open to powers in the East and the West, rather than focusing only on one axis. There is diversity in alliances and a renewal of balances. This helped Prince Mohammed’s historical visit to the United States.

He believes the country is an ally with whom to confront regional challenges. He met owners of tech companies in Silicon Valley, two weeks after Saudi Arabia invested $3.5 billion in Uber, granting the kingdom a seat on the company’s board. According to Uber’s chief executive Travic Kalanick, there is an economic orientation linked to Saudi Vision 2030 that aims to benefit from global companies.

Regardless of US-Iranian rapprochement, Saudi Arabia’s historical legacy, religious weight and sacred reference make it Washington’s primary ally

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

The prince’s US tour also tackled politics, such as Iran’s intervention in Gulf affairs and support of terrorist groups, such as the Houthis in Yemen, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and militias in Iraq and Syria. He believes that regional disturbances make it inevitable that Gulf countries, as models of Arab stability, establish alliances and revive relations.

Saudi Arabia is a major partner for the United States when it comes to spreading Islamic moderation. Regardless of US-Iranian rapprochement, Saudi Arabia’s historical legacy, religious weight and sacred reference make it Washington’s primary ally despite differences such as that over Syria.

Counterterrorism

Saudi Arabia, with its expertise in intelligence and security matters, can help the West tackle terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). CIA Director John Brennan told Al Arabiya news channel: “We have excellent cooperation with Saudi Arabia. I’ve worked with my Saudi partners for many, many years.

“I served in Saudi Arabia for about five years, and under the leadership of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who’s also minister of interior. Over the last 15 years, the Saudis have become among our best counterterrorism partners. So with King Salman and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, we feel as though we have really strong partners in this fight against terrorism.”

There are major economic, social and political challenges, but this confirms the importance of maintaining strong relations

Fahad Suleiman Shoqiran

Brennan also discussed Iran’s intervention in other countries’ affairs, as the nuclear deal does not mean Tehran has become as gentle as a lamb or a strategic partner for the United States, as conditions have to be met to achieve that. “I’m very concerned about Iran’s support for terrorist activities and terrorist groups, especially the Quds Force and their activities inside Iraq, Syria, and other countries throughout the region,” he said.

“I think they have to demonstrate that they’re going to be committed to the fight against terrorism, as opposed to being a state sponsor of terrorism. We’re very pleased with what President [Hassan] Rouhani was able to do along with Supreme Leader [Ali] Khamenei as far as agreeing to the nuclear deal, but Iran still has a long way to go before I’m going to be convinced that they’re interested in countering and destroying terrorism.”

The Saudi-US alliance cannot be destroyed by difficult circumstances. The prince’s US tour aims to resume the journey of 80 years of historical and exceptional bilateral ties. There are major economic, social and political challenges, but this confirms the importance of maintaining strong relations. No country in the region has succeeded in placing itself as an alternative to Saudi Arabia for the West.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Jun. 20, 2016
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Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.

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