How can Saudi Arabia prioritize and obtain its strategic interests?

Faisal Al-Shammeri

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It has been said that “Great Powers do not have friends, they have interests.” As valid as this statement is, it is applicable up and down the ladder in multiple aspects in life. People have interests, businesses as well, along with charities, and many different multitudes of interests are purveyed and relevant throughout the human experience. Interests are to be protected and pursued to a point where results are available for all concerned parties can see the tangible results.

Obviously, within the context mentioned in the opening statement, Nation-States have theirs as well. The challenge is how are they not only identified but obtained. A famous German Philosopher, Goethe, once said “That theories are grey but real life is green.”

So how do we in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia identify, prioritize and obtain what our strategic interests? And in what set of circumstances are most favorable for this to occur? We are a rising power, one in which the annals of History say will be fought with many challenges, and at times great difficulties incurred, but during this rise to regional hegemony we will be adhering to the maxim of seeking the optimum conditions for achieving our interests. And, generally speaking, what are interests of paramount importance for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia? The following list is not all to be sure but a good place to start would be among the following items.


A stable Yemen, non-aligned to individuals and states hostile to the peace and well being of our people or Yemeni’s themselves. A stable Egypt, able to move further away from the chaos and disorder of the post-Mubarak era, and capable of being the regional partner to a multiple of interests both inside and outside the region. A Syria without Bashar al-Assad, non-aligned to individuals and states hostile to the peace and well being of the region as a whole.

A stable Iraq, able like Egypt to move along a path further removed from the chaos and violence that has engulfed it. Like Yemen and Syria, it is in our interest to see that Iraq is not used to serve the aims and ambitions of individuals and states hostile to the peace and well being of the region as a whole. As important as the previously mentioned subjects are, of paramount importance is a region where Nation-States do not export radical and violent revolutionary movements, or serve as the launching pads for nefarious individuals whose aims are a permanent trend of instability throughout the Middle East. In conjunction with this we must assert our interests that offensive nuclear weapons do not proliferate throughout the region. So how do we assert our interests and under what conditions are optimum for us to achieve these interests?

Not only should our interests be shared with our partners, but in conjunction with this we should not have to abandon our core principles during the process.

Faisal Al-Shammeri

Being objective to the tide of history and the benefits of hindsight it is important to align ourselves with partners who will help us achieve our interests. No great power, rising power, newly created or old Nation-State has ever achieved their strategic interests alone. the United States did not defeat Great Britain on its own during its Revolutionary War, it was aligned with partners who shared the same interest of seeing that North America was not under complete British subjugation and hegemony. Tsarist Russia did not defeat Napoleonic France on its own, it was aligned with three other powers who shared the common interest of not having Napoleon master of The European Continent. Great Britain did not defeat Imperial Germany on its own in World War I, it needed to be aligned with The Western Powers and Tsarist Russia to achieve its interests here. Bolshevik Russia did not defeat National Socialist Germany on its own in World War II, it was aligned with partners who shared the same interests of not seeing Europe dominated by Adolph Hitler. the United States fought in two World Wars and a Cold War to prevent a single entity from having hegemonic domination of The European Continent and mastery of Eurasia. In World War I & II it was involved to prevent Germany from having unlimited access to the raw materials of Russia and Eurasia, and merging it with German manufacturing capacity and technological expertise. the Cold War was the opposite, to prevent Russian and Eurasian abundance of its raw materials having direct access to the manufacturing capacity and technological expertise of Germany. To this day the United States is working on this same aim to protect its interests in that a hostile Eurasia is the only power on Earth at the moment that could potentially defeat militarily the United States in a conventional conflict.

Even the United States in the Cold War, and today in the challenges of Eurasia, has strategic partners to assert its interests. So what conditions are paramount for us achieving our interests?

Pursuing and achieving

What we seek in not only pursuing our interests, but achieving them, are partners who see the importance of our aims. Simply put it cannot be more important to us, than it is to them. In all circumstances whenever one finds themselves in a situation where it is more important to them, than it is for the others who are considering potential involvement it never evolves into tangible results. Our interests, must be jointly shared with all involved. It is in out interests that we have relationships that are mutually acceptable, mutually beneficial, and predictable. Goethe’s comment “That theories are grey and real life is green,” was mentioned earlier within this context.

Not only should our interests be shared with our partners, but in conjunction with this we should not have to abandon our core principles during the process. So regarding the topics outlined earlier: A stable Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, removal of the Butcher of Damascus, the removal of radical, violent, revolutionary ideologies throughout the Middle East and those who support the nefarious entities who carry out these movements, along with a region free of nuclear weapons for offensive capabilities, who else shares these interests? Who else finds these interests as important to them as it is to us? Who else would stand to gain in the benefits obtained by these topics being resolved in a manner providing beneficial results for all? Who else can look at these topics, and wish to work along the lines of being mutually acceptable, mutually beneficial, and predictable with us? The satisfactory outcomes that we desire would benefit not only The Middle East but globally as well. There is more than common cause and overlapping interests here. Also as an undercurrent here is the moral and humanitarian principle that we cannot casually abandon either.

When one is confronted with evil, and chooses to not take a strong stand against it, then this indifference actually enables that evil to flourish. We here in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia find these topics not only of our absolute core interests but we cannot abandon them, under no circumstances can we compromise on them as well. This is a time of challenge, but the rise of a Nation-State into a regional power, and beyond, will be fraught with periods of challenge from time-to-time. But behind times of challenge is tremendous opportunity, and the potential to emerge from that period with a greater standing than previously known. To reference some of the earlier examples of Nation-States fraught with challenge let us look at what was the conclusion of these struggles. the United States emerged from its Revolutionary War as an independent nation, and now finds itself as the oldest Constitutional Republic in The Western World with principles born out of that period that to this very day provides it with one of its pillars for its source of power. Tsarist Russia’s faced at the time the greatest invasion force the world had ever seen, against a man who had more power in Europe since The Caesar’s of Rome, of pure military genius, but won, and not only won became a recognized power by The European Powers. At the conclusion of World War I with he defeat of Imperial Germany, Great Britain saw its Empire grow further still to the pinnacle of the Pax Britannica. Bolshevik Russia lost 30,000,000 people in World War II in its fight against National Socialist Germany, but emerged as a one of two Superpowers.

And the United States after World War I, II & the Cold War transformed from a rising power, albeit one not sure about where it belonged in the world, to the richest and most prosperous country ever known to mankind. Challenges present opportunity. We are on the doorstep of tremendous opportunity. For our partners if they share our common interests, and these interests are as important to them as it is to us, they too stand to share in the tremendous opportunities that beckon.

Faisal Al-Shammeri is a political analyst based in Washington DC. He tweets @mr_alshammeri

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