Voices from Riyadh are echoing in the world’s capital cities as the Kingdom embarks upon a new policy rooted in shared interests and based on firmness, clarity and openness. A new innovative team is putting its stamp on Saudi policy and is grappling with changing conditions both regionally and internationally.
Saudi policy is based on well-established foundations that begin with the Gulf as its first circle and the regional Arabic and Islamic arena as its second. The Kingdom is committed to the policy of good neighborliness, non-intervention in other countries’ internal affairs and not allowing others to intervene in its affairs. These foundations include supporting international safety and stability as well as playing a major role in regional and international organizations.
The philosophy of Saudi policy includes linking its interests to the wider world as well as signaling its political pragmatism.Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
However, the political means of achieving the goals has necessitated a new approach, including quick decision-making, and taking the initiative as a key pivotal leader in the region. At the same time, the political situation in the region has imposed a new reality here and also abroad. At the regional level, the joint Arab system has been massively hit by the so-called Arab Spring. Internationally, we see the decline of American interests in the region as a result of the changed priorities of US foreign policy.
The philosophy of Saudi policy includes linking its interests to the wider world as well as signaling its political pragmatism. That pragmatism means that the state looks out for its interest and power wherever possible. In turn, that leads to assessing the facts on the ground as a key factor in deciding whether ideas are practical and can be turned into reality. These changes in Saudi policy do not jeopardize its strategic foundations.
The changes can be seen clearly in Saudi Arabia’s relations with others and the new development in relations in Syria is an example. The Saudi-Russian Investment Forum held in Russia last week resulted in an agreement to establish a $4 billion investment fund to finance mutual projects for developing economic and commercial ties between the two countries. Another agreement was made between the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) and the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) to invest $10 billion in Russian projects.
These projects were a direct outcome of the visit to Moscow of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. At the same time, the country is strengthening its deep relations with Washington. King Salman’s visit to the U.S. in September led to large projects in cooperation with the U.S..
Saudi Arabia has also deepened its relations with France through identical political positions on regional issues, and establishing far-reaching economic ties during the recent Saudi-French Business Opportunities Forum in Riyadh.
Open to all
The idea is that Saudi interests are open to all, and that the Kingdom will take the lead whenever that benefits the Saudi people. A difference in viewpoint does not mean enmity. For example, the Saudi and Russian positions differ in regard to Syria but that difference will not stop the building of relationships and interests. The larger vision is wherever there are conflicting interests, politics will pave the way to economic benefits.
The new Saudi vision has also spread to Africa where the Kingdom has improved its economic and political relations amidst an exchange of visits between leaders. Riyadh has attempted to fill political vacuums in an effort to prevent chaos. Saudi policy begins in the Gulf circle where the strategic partnership between Saudi Arabia and the UAE has led to genuine development in addressing the region’s problems and filling any possible political vacuum.
The homogeneity and partnership of the two countries and other Gulf states in Operation Decisive Storm has shown that the Gulf shares a political ideology. The Gulf has the responsibility to manage its own affairs and will play a proactive part rather than only a reactive one. Yes, Saudi policy has adopted a new style, one with a difference. This is expected of states and countries which show the flexibility to adapt to changes and protect themselves from threats.
This article was first published in Arab News on Dec. 2, 2015.
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi