At the opening of the World Cup in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Bin Salman sat down close to FIFA President in VIP section. Bin Salman’s appearance was the culmination of a stunning turn of events. Even before Saudi Arabia’s team defeated Argentina on Tuesday, that had already happened.
The actual leader if Saudi Arabia appeared to be a figure back at the global high level as he sat, grinning, in the most powerful place of any guest at the international sporting event.
In the face of global energy anxieties and with elite governments concentrated on the crisis in Ukraine and conflicts between the Washington and Beijing, geopolitical determinism is reestablishing itself for the Al Saud family.
Last Monday, Washington declared him exempt from charges related to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. His dedication to Saudi safety was publicly demonstrated by the US government by issuing a threat from Iran alert. As a result, Prince Mohammed seemed to have appeased American rage.
Only a few weeks earlier, U.S. President threatened “consequences” after charging Prince Mohammed with acting dishonestly during their July oil negotiations. After Biden threatened to designate the de facto Saudi ruler as a “pariah,” the July meeting represented an internal U.S. backtracking.
Bin Salman has also made appearances this month at the APEC summit, the G20 summit, and the COP27 climate summit. All these events preceded his appearance in Qatar.
In 2017, he regarded Qatar as an occupying neighbor, according to earlier statements made by Qatari authorities.
The prince, also referred to as MbS, met French president in Paris in July. He will soon welcome Xi Jinping, the president of China, in Riyadh. Young Saudis now have access to theaters, concerts, and jobs at home thanks to MbS. The shocking 2-1 victory over Argentina on Tuesday appears to have further enhanced his reputation.
Bin Salman; Still a Pariah?
It is still too early to declare that MbS has achieved political rediscovery in the West. In either the United States or the majority of western European nations, Bin Salman would be an unwelcome guest.
The decision about immunity did not address a currently ongoing assessment of Washington’s relations with Saudi Arabia, according to U.S. Secretary of State.
His involvement in every facet of relations with Saudi Arabia cannot be wished away, though, as Western economies scramble for energy security and winter descends on the northern regions in Europe.
Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US and the rest of the West are still at an all-time low. The Washington discovered that it was simpler to put some space between itself and an ally whose social policies it finds unsettling during the shale boom of the previous decade when demand for Saudi oil declined.
Saudi Arabia’s concerns about regional risks were disregarded by Washington’s position on the Arab revolt and pursuit of an Iranian nuclear agreement. These made Riyadh believe that the US was giving up on its role as the Gulf region’s security provider.
Saudi Arabia perceived the criticism from the West as disingenuous when it ultimately decided to take matters into its own hands by waging war in Yemen.
In the West, Saudi concerns over Iran were frequently considered as exaggerated. Its conflict in Yemen was seen as a hasty attack on a neighboring country. In addition, following the murder of Khashoggi, MbS was seen as a dictatorial abuser.
These opinions don’t appear like they will alter that much. However, superpower rivalry and energy shortages once more dominate world politics. As a result, they could find it politically expedient to set old resentments aside for the time being.