It is an important week for Saudi diplomacy. Saudi Arabia is improving its relations with China, the world’s top oil importer, and has turned over a new leaf with US President Donald Trump to fix what was ruined by former President Barack Obama, whose policy was based on rapprochement with Iran against the interests and security of the Gulf and Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia, which found itself in a corner as a result of geopolitical and oil-related wars and transformations, is launching a counter defense campaign. King Salman bin Abdulaziz is meeting with leaders in China, which requested mediating with Iran that is now calling for reconciliation. Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met with the US president around the same time.
Commenting on Tuesday’s meeting between Trump and the Crown Prince, a senior adviser to the Crown Prince told Bloomberg: “Today’s meeting has put things on the right track, and marked a significant shift in relations, across all political, military, security and economic fields.”
This clearly refers to putting things, which Obama ruined, on the right track and to restoring special bilateral relations that has traditionally been based on the agreements of the meeting that King Abdulaziz and US President Theodore Roosevelt held on board of the Navy cruiser Quincy after the end of World War II.
Few official statements were made about the meeting between the Crown Prince and Trump. The latter has been a president for less than two months now but the White House showed great interest in this meeting. Trump changed the meeting’s time and held it two days ahead of its schedule.
White House officials including the vice president attended the meeting. What emerged – according to unofficial statements – shows that Washington altered its policy toward Iran and that it will not remain idle on Iran’s terrorist activities.
There are two models in the Middle East: one that conveys its desire to improve relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism to impose its relationsAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Few weeks ago, Trump’s administration adopted a stance that is different from Obama’s when it allowed shipping ammunition to Saudi forces and supplied Saudi Arabia with intelligence information to support it in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US suffered during Obama’s term. In fact, the entire region went through a turmoil because of Obama’s openness toward Iran encouraged the latter’s military expansion in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Chaos is also one of his policy’s repercussions on the region.
The points raised during Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s trip include convincing Trump of a new relationship that aims to rectify the situation, confronting Iran’s domination and fighting terrorism, which is everyone’s mutual enemy. On the economic front, a member of the Saudi delegation said that the Americans are keen to enhance participation in Saudi Arabia’s economic vision.
Meanwhile in China, Iran was not the only topic, which King Salman and the Chinese president discussed. Saudi-Chinese relations in terms of oil, economy, military and security cooperation are good. There is also the Silk Road, China’s promising and interesting giant project, which has complicated political problems because it passes through conflict zones. One of the possible options is for this road to take Saudi lands as passages or as parallel routes.
Information released by Beijing shows that it will continue to calmly enhance its presence in western Asian and eastern African areas. Today, China is the world’s second largest economy after the US. Like major countries, it needs raw material and energy resources and it needs to secure its trade passage and protect its investments and interests.
However, unlike them, China does not impose its influence via military presence but rather uses its economic influence to impose its stances or protect its interests.
There are two models in the Middle East: one that conveys its desire to improve relations via economic and development cooperation and another that uses wars and terrorism to impose its relations.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 16, 2017.
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. He tweets @aalrashed.