Saudi Arabia: Policies appropriate for the 21st century
by Viktor Mikhin on 20 Jul 2023 0 Comment

Saudi Arabia has recently gained popularity with many countries wanting to improve their political and financial status, ranging from Tehran and Washington to London, Paris, and Tel Aviv. And they are all inspired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud’s incredibly effective policy, which is gaining fame and recognition by the day. His policy of ending years of antagonism with Iran, aided by China, has caused Western countries to be concerned about losing their position in the Persian Gulf region. If the Crown Prince offers to negotiate to the satisfaction of all interested parties, the US and NATO can offer nothing but war to other states, forgetting that this is the 21st century with its new peace-loving policy.


Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud recently returned from Tehran, where he held fruitful talks with Iranian leaders. At the same time, US President Joe Biden’s top adviser Brett McGurk was on his way to Riyadh to advocate for an agreement that would restore relations between Saudi Arabia and… Israel. Simultaneously, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu waited with bated breath for American efforts to bear fruit, knowing that there was little he could do to block the impending stabilization agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia. And, as the situation with the Palestinians deteriorates, the Israeli leadership is relying heavily on Riyadh to help them calm the situation within Israel. But this has not happened and is unlikely to happen in the near future.


Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud is the first senior Saudi official to visit Tehran since 2006. Relations between Riyadh and Tehran were disrupted in 2016 after protests over the killing of a prominent Shiite cleric in Riyadh targeted the Saudi Embassy in Tehran and the Consulate in Mashhad. In March 2023, China brokered an agreement between Iran and Saudi Arabia to restore diplomatic relations as a first step in the reconciliation process. Earlier in June, Iran opened its Embassy in Riyadh, and Saudi Arabia did the same soon after. But according to media reports, Saudi diplomats will work in a luxury hotel in Tehran. The reopening of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran has been delayed due to the poor condition of the building, which was damaged during the 2016 protests.


The Saudi foreign minister met with his Iranian counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, after which they held a joint press conference. “I would like to point out the importance of cooperation between our two countries concerning the regional security, especially the security of maritime navigation and waterways,” the Saudi prince said. “Our relations are based on a clear foundation of full and mutual respect for independence, sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.” Note the difference with the smug, mentoring tone of the West, which regards the Saudis and Iranians as second-rate people and prefers always to talk down to them.


According to the Iranian foreign minister, he and his Saudi counterpart “discussed ways to strengthen cooperation in the fields of security, economy, tourism, and transportation,” emphasizing that “regional security will be ensured only by regional actors” without outside interference. This is no longer a hint, but a clear message to the United States, which is very concerned with the “defense” of the Persian Gulf countries against unknown enemies. And if there is an enemy, it is the West, which has for many years shamelessly exploited the national wealth, buying up oil, gas and other natural resources of the Persian Gulf states on the cheap.


Later, the Saudi minister met with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, extending him an invitation to “visit the kingdom soon.” According to a statement from the Saudi Foreign Ministry, “discussions between Prince Faisal and President Raisi focused on reviewing bilateral relations and exploring opportunities to strengthen and expand cooperation in various areas… They also exchanged views on recent regional and international developments, highlighting ongoing efforts in these areas.”


Iran’s president took the opportunity to criticize Israel, according to a statement from his office, reported by Iran’s official IRNA news agency. “Only the enemies of Islam, led by the Zionist regime, are unhappy with the expansion of bilateral and regional cooperation between Tehran and Riyadh,” said Ebrahim Raisi. “Zionist regime is a threat not only to Palestinians but to all Muslims,” the Iranian president concluded.


Echoes of the positive development of Saudi-Iranian relations were loudly heard in Tel Aviv, where Bibi Netanyahu is very interested in American assistance to convince Riyadh to normalize relations with Israel. The well-known Israeli newspaper Haaretz wrote bluntly: “Seeking US Support for Saudi-Israel Deal, Netanyahu Keeps Mum on Iran Talks.” The article concludes: “Israel’s stance on the Washington-Tehran negotiations is realistic: It (Israel) can’t stop them, and has no chance of success in drawing anti-Biden moves in Congress.” The article also mentions reports of so far unsuccessful secret talks between Washington and Tehran held in the Sultanate of Oman.


Netanyahu is not alone in seeking an agreement with the Saudis that could strengthen his political position in the midst of the destabilizing events facing his government. Washington, where the position of the current administration is rather difficult, is also seeking favour with Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud personally. According to the American news website Axios, “The White House wants to make a diplomatic push for a Saudi-Israeli peace deal in the next six to seven months before the presidential election campaign consumes President Biden’s agenda.” In other words, the recent visits of high-ranking American officials to Saudi Arabia are aimed not so much at improving Saudi-Israeli relations as at improving the standing of the now worthless President Joe Biden in next year’s presidential elections.


However, it is unclear whether or not the Saudi crown prince is seeking to provide political “favours” to Joe Biden’s administration. Even if the prince supports mending relations with Israel, he may be in no hurry to score points in the intricate political battle that has erupted between the West and the Persian Gulf states. Naturally at the direction of the authorities, a Saudi commentator stated clearly on television that Riyadh was no longer willing to supply “free services,” even to the United States. As they say, goodbye America!


With the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Netanyahu has lost all leverage on Riyadh to force it to agree to a peace agreement. If the US negotiates with Iran to get at least a “mini-deal” before next year’s elections, Netanyahu will be in an untenable position. He himself is at fault for adopting a strong foreign and domestic strategy intended to deteriorate relations with the Arab world.


Regardless of whether the US, Iran, or Israel are engaged, comments in numerous Western media outlets noted that the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia stands to gain from everything. As the influential Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported, “Everybody wants something from the Saudis, and they can pick and choose according to their own interests.” But one choice of the Saudis seems obvious: reconciliation with everyone on the basis of mutual benefit. Most crucially, the Saudi prince pursues a policy suited for the 21st century alongside the strong BRICS alliance, rather than the outdated route that the now infirm United States and the entire West are still seeking to impose on the globe.


Viktor Mikhin, corresponding member of RANS, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”. Courtesy


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