King Salman, oil and wars in Washington
It is clear that economic success will be the most prominent actor when it comes to assessing regional powers and their influence
King Salman’s visit to the White House on Friday was certainly the most important to be carried out by a Saudi monarch, as it came after a conciliatory deal between the West and Iran. This is because Iran poses a threat to the security of the kingdom and the region.
The visit also came amid escalating wars in Yemen, Syria and Libya, as well as chaos in Iraq. Meanwhile, international wars are being waged every day against terrorist organizations like ISIS. King Salman’s visit also came during the oil price slump and the emergence of U.S. shale as a competitor. It is the first time that a Saudi king visits Washington after the United States has become an exporter of oil when it had always been an importer. The two countries discussed problematic issues – wars, oil, terrorism and the Iranian nuclear deal.
It is clear that economic success will be the most prominent actor when it comes to assessing regional powers and their influenceAbdulrahman al-Rashed
This is why King Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visit was put extensively under the spotlight, and a particular question was raised in this regard: Is this the end of the special relationship between Riyadh and Washington?
The visit itself answers the question: No, it isn’t the end because there are a lot of facets that make Saudi Arabia an influential country, mainly its Islamic leadership, its strong economy and the tenacity of its oil dominance.
It is worth noting that Saudi Arabia has positively accepted challenges sprouting from regional crises, and decided to strengthen its military capabilities, while knowing the consequences of the nuclear deal that has lifted all previous restrictions on Iran. Riyadh took a firm stance on Yemen, and we can now see legitimate forces surrounding the Yemeni capital of Sanaa. Riyadh is also still active and influential the Syrian crisis, the global war on terrorism and the arrangement of the oil market. Its regional Islamic influence and position enables the kingdom to rally together alliances that can change the status-quo, unlike Iran that has already succeeded in sowing chaos in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon but has not succeeded in building one stable regime. Iran has failed in arranging a regional network, except for Hezbollah and Assad’s collapsing regime.
These policies are not the only important card in the relations between Riyadh and Washington. There is always the Saudi winning card, which is its enormous economic strength that cannot be compared with Iran's tired and limited economy, which promotes itself as a promising investment and development opportunity. This is what we felt during the visit yesterday, whether from the joint statement of the two leaders after the meeting or the king’s speech to the Saudi-American Business Council. It is clear that economic success will be the most prominent actor when it comes to assessing regional powers and their influence.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Sept. 5, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.
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