Recently, the Saudi Deputy Defense Minister who is also responsible for the Yemeni file, Prince Khalid bin Salman, held talks with US National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, and senior officials of the US Department of Defense (Pentagon), as part of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to end the war in Yemen since 2015.
This came during a visit, which is the first of its kind to the United States since Joe Biden took office, the visit raises many questions concerning the shape of the bilateral relations between the two countries and the future of this relation.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Colin Kahl met Prince Khaled “to reaffirm the US-Saudi defense relationship,”.
During the meeting, Cale emphasized US commitment to helping Saudi Arabia defend its territory and people.”
Kirby added that Cale and Prince Khaled discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, and the commitment of the United States and Saudi Arabia to confront Iran’s destabilizing activities.
Cale thanked Prince Khaled for working closely and constructively with U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking to end the war in Yemen and condemned the Houthi cross-border attacks.
Peace in Yemen is a Priority
The moves of the Saudi Deputy Defense Minister to the United States are aimed at discussing partnership and cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States.
The visit also seeks to confirm that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the sponsor of the Arab coalition to restore legitimacy in Yemen, has not abandoned its goal of limiting Iranian influence in Yemen, as evidenced by the fact that it continues to launch raids on Houthi sites on various fighting fronts in Yemen.
The visit also stresses Saudi alignment with the directions of the international community and foreign diplomacy, taking into account the international efforts calling for peace and stopping the war.
Countering Extremism & Terrorism is a Must.
Prince Khaled, as part of a first-of-its-kind visit by a Saudi official to Washington under the new President Joe Biden, met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.
The meeting focused on reviewing international efforts and joint coordination between the two countries in the context of confronting extremism, violence, and terrorism, and the related dangers that threaten the security, capabilities, stability, and coexistence of peoples.
Khalid bin Salman, who previously held the position of the Saudi ambassador to Washington, discussed another no less sensitive files in the Middle East, on top of which are the ongoing negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the latest developments in this context, and the return of the United States and its European allies to the Vienna table.
Iran-backed Houthis attacks
In conjunction with a session of talks held by the Saudi Deputy Defense Minister with US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the Pentagon renewed its commitment to work with Saudi Arabia to end the war in Yemen, and stressed the need to cooperate with KSA to confront “Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region.”
The Associated Press reported that Prince Khaled bin Salman also met with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Army Mark Milley, while the US Department of Defense confirmed the US’s commitment to “defense relations with Saudi Arabia” and condemned “the cross-border attacks launched by the Houthi militia with Iranian support.”
The emphasis on the need to strengthen coordination between Riyadh and Washington to stop Iranian subversive interference in the region was repeated in the first meeting between Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and his US counterpart, Anthony Blinken, on the sidelines of the G-20 Ministers Summit in Italy, where the two parties confirmed the need for Iran to stop funding the Houthi militias in Yemen and extremist groups that threaten international peace and security.
Although the two sides differed in the way they dealt with the nuclear file, they showed a common vision regarding the recent political change in Iran. The White House, immediately after the election of Ibrahim Raisi as Iran’s president, confirmed Biden’s unwillingness to meet with him.
The White House confirmed that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is the real decision-maker in Tehran.
The Saudi-US relationship in a Test?
The relationship between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, after the arrival of the Biden administration, passed several tests, most notably the freezing of arms sales and the cessation of military aid to the Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen.
However, the recent partial lifting of the freeze on arms sales to Saudi Arabia after the Black Hawk helicopter deal was passed, according to Jane’s Defense magazine, which specializes in military affairs, showed that defense cooperation between the two countries is still ongoing.
Finally, the US State Department revealed in a report that the Pentagon intends to re-deal with the Yemeni armed forces that are fighting fateful battles against the Houthis and to build their capabilities to support the national interests of the United States in combating terrorism, violent extremism, and illegal smuggling, and ensuring freedom of navigation.
75 years of strategic cooperation: Saudi-US relations
Seven and a half decades have passed since the Saudi-US relations have been resilient, but despite that, they have passed difficult tests, which the two sides tried to overcome by renewing life in the historical relationship between them whenever observers bet on its return to ground zero or being subjected to a devastating earthquake.
The beginnings of the bilateral relationship between the two countries appeared in 1928 until it culminated on April 14, 1931, with the United States issuing its decision recognizing the Saudi state in preparation for the establishment of diplomatic relations with it, leading to the signing of the 1933 cooperation agreement, after which the constructive and joint work journey began.
The presence of the nascent kingdom prompted US companies to press for a more serious diplomatic representation with it, to which the US government responded by deciding to establish a headquarters for its diplomatic mission in Jeddah in 1942.
During this year, Alexander Kirk was appointed the US Minister Plenipotentiary for his country in Egypt, and the commission in Saudi Arabia was added to him.
With the expansion of interests and relations, Saudi Arabia opened a commission in Washington in 1946, and James Reeves Childs presented his credentials to the Kingdom’s government as Minister Plenipotentiary Extraordinary to the US government in the same year.
In March 1949, the diplomatic representation between the United States and Saudi Arabia was upgraded to an embassy, and Childs was appointed as its first ambassador.
Leaders MENA magazine is giving you here glances on the most important historical joints that, in the estimation of observers and historians, represented essential points in building the relationship between the two countries or subjecting them to the test of steadfastness.
Historic meeting with KSA Founder
Historical sources document that King Abdulaziz bin Abdulrahman Al Saud boarded in 1945 a trip from Jeddah to Suez that lasted two nights and one day, where he then moved to the US of the naval destroyer “Murphy” that carried him in the Great Bitter Lakes in the Suez Canal along with the US Quincy cruiser, which carried Roosevelt from Yalta to the Bitter Lakes.
The king moved with the princes: Abdullah bin Abdul Rahman, the king’s younger brother, Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz, his third son, and Prince Mansour bin Abdulaziz, his sixth son, with Minister of Finance Abdullah Al-Sulaiman, Hafez Wahba, Minister of State and “William Eddy” to the Quincy cruiser.
The conversation took place between the King and Roosevelt for an hour and a quarter on board the ship, they met again after lunch.
The second meeting lasted for no less than five hours, as relations were established and consolidated through political, economic, and military dimensions.
The United States obtained the right to explore for oil through the Standard Company due to the issuance of the royal decree approving the agreement in 1933 signed by then-Finance Minister Abdullah Al-Sulaiman for 66 years.
The agreement changed the face of the Kingdom forever to become a giant global oil source was amended by the 1957 treaty.
Tension during the 73 war
On the 18th of October 1973, King Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud issued an order to stop the export of oil to the US and the Netherlands for their support of Israel in the war against Egypt. The decision came to force Israel to withdraw from the occupied Arab lands, which led to an escalation of tension between the US and Saudi Arabia; however, the strategic interests between the two countries were able to withstand that storm.
Moreover, the Arab conflict with Israel and Saudi Arabia’s firm stances in support of the first Arab cause have made Washington and Riyadh in more than one position in a state of tension, from the 1967 war until the Palestinian uprisings and even during the Trump era when the “Deal of the Century” was proposed.
The beginnings of Saudi Aramco go back to 1933 when the concession agreement was concluded between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Standard Oil Company of California (SOCAL), then a subsidiary company called the California Arabian Standard Oil Company was established to manage this agreement.
In 1973, the Saudi government bought a 25 % stake in Aramco and increased this stake to 60 percent the following year.
During 1980, the Saudi government owned the entire Aramco company to establish, eight years later, the Saudi Arabian Oil Company (Saudi Aramco) appeared officially, a new company that assumed all the responsibilities of Aramco, led by Engineer Ali bin Ibrahim Al-Naimi, who became the first Saudi president of the company in 1984, then the first president and CEO of Saudi Aramco in 1988.
However, coordination between the two countries remained based on the same assets, as Saudi Arabia remained a highly credible country in supplying energy to the world’s markets.
The United States assumed its responsibility as a strategic ally in securing navigation in the Gulf, despite the wars in the region.
The region faced the aftermath of the Second World War, which brought about radical changes in the international situation, annihilating the old European system of governments.
At that time, the US and the Soviet Union became the only two countries that shape world politics and compete for control over it.
(The Region) entered the framework of the US defense policy, which formed one of the pillars of its strategy to besiege the Soviet Union.
The Cold war between the US and the Soviet Union appeared in several stages, especially inside the Middle East when Egypt expelled the Soviet experts due to King Faisal’s call that communism and Zionism are two sides of the same coin, warning against the expansion of communist influence.
Liberation of Kuwait
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia moved during Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, through diplomatic and military action, but the situation called for the assistance of an international coalition, the most important of which was the US forces whose intervention was decisive in expelling the Iraqi occupier.
The attacks of September 11, 2001, constituted a turning point in the relationship of the United States of America with the Arab and Islamic world. It also cast a shadow over relations with Saudi Arabia, which was surprised by the participation of 15 Saudis in the attacks, while provoking the war on terrorism that led to the war on Afghanistan and then Iraq.
The Kingdom, in turn, contributed to the war on terrorism by employing all its capabilities to cooperate with the United States, going to the point of drying up the sources of terrorism, and sponsoring the Riyadh Conference on Combating Terrorism in 2005, in which many countries of the world participated, and for which the Riyadh Declaration was issued.
The Kingdom also faced the JASTA law, which allows relatives of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks to sue countries, including Saudi Arabia, and demand compensation for it, which the Kingdom rejected and considered a violation of the principle of sovereign immunity for governments, and demanded the US Congress to move to amend or repeal it.
However, in 2005, foreign scholarship programs for Saudi students to the US and the world were launched, persuading large segments of Saudis and Western society to come together, bridge the gap left by the bloody events, and negatively employ them on the part of the beneficiaries of the outbreak of conflict between Muslims and the West.
Iran nuclear deal and Trump
After the United States occupied Iraq, and the Iranians took control of the northern neighbor of Saudi Arabia, the Saudis were surprised that their US strategically during the era of Barack Obama, made a deal that was not innocent from the point of view of Riyadh and the Arabs, with the Iranians without any guarantees that Tehran would change its hostile behavior in the region, which enabled it to Further penetration into the region and causing more strife in it, which spread an atmosphere of pessimism towards relations between the two countries.
As a result, Saudi Arabia tended to clarify the Iranian threat to the world as a result of Iran’s violations and violations of international agreements and treaties related to its nuclear program.
Saudi Arabia sought to call on the international community to take a firm stance towards Iran’s nuclear program in light of its behavior in the region and the world, ending up with former US President Donald Trump tearing up that agreement and imposing an unprecedented siege and pressure against Iran.
In general, the two countries were able to pass the most difficult test of their strategic relationship, as many bet that the many of the aforementioned stations are enough to weaken the alliance between the two countries.