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17.10.2022 Author: Valery Kulikov

To what limit could US-Saudi relations deteriorate?

The White House’s recent policies in the Middle East show that the United States is increasingly losing ground in the region every day. The recent visit of US President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia was undeniable proof of this.

In fact, this is happening to the US not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. And it is the failed policies of the US, as well as the current US political, military and economic elite, starting with Joe Biden, that are actively driving the process.

After the disgraceful withdrawal from Afghanistan, the crisis in the ongoing US military presence in Iraq and Syria, and the lack of progress in restoring the nuclear agreement with Iran, the US President and his administration have failed to restore US regional influence. The US President was also unsuccessful in achieving even the adoption of any approach to the two-state solution in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has failed outright in his attempt to promote the US-led military coalition project at the 6+3 summit, as well as in his efforts to induce OPEC+ to increase oil supplies to world markets in order to offset the shortfall caused by Washington’s anti-Russian sanctions.

In fact, Biden has already become a “lame duck” in the White House, surrounded on all sides by Republicans and Americans who are openly hostile to him because of his not only fruitless foreign policy, but also internal one, which every day is worsening the financial situation of the US citizens. Under these circumstances, the signals from Biden that he intends to run for a second term make them sound hollow, while depriving the Democrats of hope in the forthcoming midterm elections in November.

Against this backdrop, the current US President, who is exhausted in every sense, under the instigation of “advisors” like himself from his inner circle, decided, like a capricious child, to “punish” Saudi Arabia, who had offended him. And other OPEC+ members as well. According to White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre, US President Biden has made it clear that US “needs a different sort of relationship with Saudi Arabia.” A little earlier it became known that one of Biden’s “advisors”, Democrat Robert Menendez, head of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, had proposed suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia and this draft proposal has already been submitted to the US Senate.

A group of members of the US House of Representatives has proposed withdrawing the US military from the UAE and Saudi Arabia altogether in response to the OPEC+ decision, the Washington Times reports. Introduced by Democratic MPs Tom Malinowski, Sean Kasten and Susan Wild, the Strained Partnership Act would see the withdrawal of the US contingent along with air defense systems, including Patriot and THAAD systems.

As is known, Saudi Arabia is home to a considerable number of US military bases, with up to several thousand troops in various parts of the kingdom. There used to be many more and it was even home to the US Regional Command Center. However, even before the bombings of the World Trade Centre buildings in New York, for which Washington planned to make the Saudis guilty, it was decided to move the center to the Al Udeid base in Qatar. And it is now the main US military base in the region, with the largest airfield, an electronic espionage center, weapons and equipment depots, including hundreds of tanks, artillery and Patriot air defense systems.

As for the US bases in Saudi Arabia, they are primarily needed by the US itself, such as the air base at King Abdulaziz International Airport and the King Fahd Naval Base in Jeddah. Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that US bases abroad (and US bases in Saudi Arabia are no exception), are actively used by the US to train local and regional military and special services personnel. It is therefore a kind of Washington incubator for future agents of influence, the pro-American elite in the local army and special services. It is also well known that there has always been secret training of various fighters on US military bases. As, for example, is the case today on US military bases in Syria, and used to be done in the past for Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia. And many of these Washington-trained fighters are still combatting today in Yemen, Syria, Ukraine…

It is also pertinent to recall that, despite the controversy between Washington and Riyadh over the past year, the United States has demonstrated its intentions to deepen military contacts and cooperation with Saudi Arabia. And a prime example of this was the US Central Command’s plans to open a new test center in Saudi Arabia. According to NBC News, the new Saudi site will be used to test the latest drone countermeasures, as well as air and missile defense systems. However, US officials have already commented that Saudi Arabia is a good location for testing electronic warfare systems.

While criticizing Saudi Arabia in their public speeches, US politicians are nevertheless well aware that by slamming the door and withdrawing from Saudi Arabia, they will not leave a vacuum behind them. Since Moscow and Beijing are likely to take over the role that the US has played in the region. All the more so since a clear shift in the balance of power in the Middle East towards Russia is already taking place. And today it is not just Riyadh that is pursuing a policy of hard opportunism towards the Americans in the Middle East. There is also a regrouping of relations between the two former regional rivals, Tehran and Riyadh, which are showing tendencies to stabilize the situation for the sake of feeling the contours of a future post-American regional balance in the Middle East. Moreover, Iran and Saudi Arabia have begun the process of integration into big politics and the world economy through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and BRICS, which is now the core of a new political and economic association with the active participation of powers such as Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

Under these circumstances, the US can only stay in the region in two cases: if it uses military force and installs controlled regimes, or if it rethinks its policies and begins to cooperate on an equal footing and honestly. Today, however, the US does not have the strength to fight on its own, and it simply does not know how to cooperate on an equal footing, nor does it want to. Therefore, its loss of full influence in the region and expulsion from it is almost inevitable, whatever “bogeymen” and sanctions Biden and his inner circle may threaten.

Valery Kulikov, political expert, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.


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