The US and Saudi Arabia went through a downfall in the second decade of twentieth century in their bilateral ties.
The relationship between the US and Saudi Arabia in the past two decades has been impacted by September 11. To much surprise, the ties between the two sides improved after 2001 despite allegations against Saudi role in the attacks.
Georges W. Bush administration welcomed Riyadh as an active partner in the Middle East. Washington’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq remains in darkness in one neglects the role of Saudi Arabia.
In the first part of this script, I detailed on Saudi-US relationship in the first decade of the twentieth century. In the second decade, however, things did not progress as in the prior decade. Riyadh faced a new condition for which it had made no preparations.
In this second part, the ties between US and Saudi Arabia with in the second decade of the century will be subject to more focus.
US and Saudi Arabia in the Second Decade
Saudi authorities hailed Donald Trump’s election win in 2016 enthusiastically and lavishly entertained him on his first foreign trip as president in the subsequent year. Contradictory enough, actions during Trump’s era have further strained bilateral relations between the US and Saudi Arabia.
Trump sided with Saudi Arabia and UAE against Qatar. The move, however, quickly backtracked after negative responses from diplomatic and military chiefs in Washington.
Growing popular and political criticism against Saudi Arabia’s continued military war in Yemen deteriorated the condition for Riyadh. To make things even worse, assassination of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was another nail on the coffin of US and Saudi Arabia relationships.
A main concern has had the potential to push US-Saudi relations into unknown waters. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s close relationship with Saudi Crown prince risked the personalization of ties between the two nations,
The rising skepticism in the Kingdom about the viability of the security support that Saudi governments saw as the foundation of their military and defense ties filled the air. This is, in some way, a repetition of the Obama’s apparent abandonment of their interests.
This time, however, the US proved more decisive in exposing a severing spheres of interests. Washington made no response following attack in Saudi Aramco facility by the Houthi movement. Riyadh found Iran responsible for the attacks.
Riyadh’s response to the fresh US policy was nothing but astonishment at first. The kingdom rulers believed that the US and Saudi Arabia objectives in security cooperation were inextricably linked, particularly on any problem involving Iran.
New Ruler; New Approach
Ultimately, Mohammed bin Salman, a young teenager when 9/11 events occurred, took the lead in Saudi Arabia. He sought to shepherd the country far into the twenty-first century. One of his likely reactions to the turbulence in US and Saudi Arabia relationship has been to expand Saudi Arabia’s military and defense alliances.
Following the tumultuous US departure from Afghanistan, and prevalent perceptions in Riyadh that Washington is withdrawing from the region, such steps are found essential. Few days following the collapse of Kabul, Bin Salman’s brother and deputy minister of defense inked a military partnership with Russia.
In another front, Riyadh preferred to appease with Tehran, a regional arch-rival to contain threats. For the first time after five years, Iran and Saudi Arabia started negotiations to resolve the challenges in Iraq.
For Saudis, by the way, the US still remains a salient, but inaccessible, partner. relationship between US and Saudi Arabia was a one-way game that the US started despite the 9/11 for its own benefits and ended it for the same reason.