Many years have passed since the Nixon-Kissinger doctrine of dividing responsibilities in the field of foreign policy and giving responsibility to regional powers. The same doctrine that introduced the Shah of Iran as the regional gendarmerie as a military arm and Saudi Arabia as its economic arm and ultimately complemented the role of the Iranian gendarmerie in the Middle East.
In the meantime, the United States has once again chosen a policy of helping Saudi Arabia dominate the region and lead the Arab world, as well as supporting the kingdom in regional conflicts, after regional developments and movements in the Middle East geopolitical order, and ignoring the Saudis’ human rights record, indicating Washington’s efforts to prevent revolutionary developments in the Middle East regional order, especially Saudi Arabia.
In the literature, U.S. officials are always defined by the Saudis as strategic partners. But the point is whether we should accept that any country is not considered a strategic partner simply because it was propaganda around the strategic axis of propaganda for a third country by politicians.
The Saudis are not only a strategic partner for the West, especially the United States, which is practically one of the biggest costs and threats to U.S. values, geopolitical and geostrategic interests, and the U.S. big strategy in the region and its foreign policy. Wahhabi extremism in the 9/11 incident, serious human rights abuses, and the open-end regional adventures of the Blockade of Qatar, pressure on Lebanon, the war in Yemen and the war in Syria, as well as the geopolitical issue of oil and even the country’s efforts to nuclear in an effort to advance Riyadh’s controversial nuclear program under Trump have not only made it a strategic partner that has practically made Riyadh a fundamental weakness of U.S. Middle East policy.
Riyadh’s inability to use coercive diplomacy to advance regional politics following the Yemeni war and the fruitless siege of Qatar in June 2017 on charges of links to Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood on the one hand, and attempts to form a regional-Arab coalition to participate in the Yemeni war on the other. On the other hand, it shows the new adventure of the Saudis and apparently with the secret support of Washington. In both cases, the six-year Yemeni war and the three-year siege of Qatar, which led to a stalemate in relations between the two countries, failed to persuade Doha to change its stance on severing support for the Brotherhood and severing ties with Iran. The Arabs agreed to improve relations in Doha in January 2021 after the failure of the Saudis and the Emirati people in Riyadh.
Riyadh has shown that it seeks to defeat the US Democrats’ diplomatic initiative, especially given its differences with Iran, its war with Yemen, and its human rights record. Trump’s unequivocal pursuit has effectively turned the Saudis into the second branch of American Trumpism, this time in the Middle East. Now, given recent reports of Khashoggi’s assassination on bin Salman’s direct orders, can the United States once again be content with another Trump victory in the Middle East? Basically, a matrix of incompetence of the Saudis inside and in the region cannot turn this country, as some claim, into a strategic partner of the United States.
The Saudis’ inability to end the open and old-end conflict in the Yemen war was a dilemma that the U.S. has been carrying for years, which Biden intends to lie down. The Saudi invasion of Yemen, which was met with Ansarullah’s defenses in the country, and Riyadh’s sense of threat to the group, which began with unconditional U.S. support, has been ongoing for more than six years, with the Saudis’ only achievement being famine, cholera, and greater insecurity.
Of Yemen’s 29 million people, 24 million need daily help to live, 16 million Yemenis are struggling with malnutrition, and five million Yemeni children are struggling with malnutrition, 4 million have been displaced, while more than 100,000 Yemenis have been killed. In the War in Yemen, the Saudis demonstrated that not only can they not advance a conventional war and win over a non-advanced and relatively backward force, but the weapons they take from the West and the United States will only be useful to create famine and insecurity and start a tandem of end-to-end conflicts.
The Saudis have shown that they cannot be a strategic ally in the upcoming wars for the United States and Arab NATO in the region, they cannot win conventional and unconventional wars, and they desperately need security assistance that has lingered many challenges for the United States.
The Saudi Arabia have practically never been able to form a successful coalition of the Arab world. Despite being equipped with modern and advanced weapons, they have been incapable of coalition building and lack of strategic depth. The failure to form a coalition in Yemen, the failure to lead the coalition under siege in Qatar, the failure to resolve the Syrian crisis as an Arab crisis, and the failure to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis and the failure of their actions to advance the 2002 proposal. It was only a part of these disabilities.
The Saudi Arabia also lack the strategic depth and strategic components needed to accompany the United States in the regional war. The low population has made the concentration of Saudi human resources and gas fields in the eastern regions, as well as the water and agricultural crisis in Riyadh, more dependent than anything else. The attack on Aramco and the lack of accurate knowledge of the origin of the attack, despite the American Patriot air defense systems and the frequent occupation of the southern part of the country in Jizan on the border with Yemen by the Houthis shows the great vulnerability of this so-called strategic American ally!
Saudis themselves, are among the pioneers and scouts of jihadist Islam and Islamic extremism. Efforts to spread Wahhabism and Wahhabism ideas in Africa, and susceptible regions in the Middle East, the influence of Sharia in the country’s judicial pillars and its black human rights record, gender inequality at home, as well as the lack of fundamental pillars of democracy such as free parties, the right to freedom of expression, free press and free media, and a popularly elected parliament, and essentially the phenomenon of elections, have created conditions in which Saudi Wahhabism extremism cannot be sustained from the inside. A striking example of this type of Saudi religious extremism is the determination of the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks with Saudi citizenship and the threat of U.S. financial penalties if it proves its role and makes it public in the U.S. congressional session, which could show the Saudi threat far more than their benefit to Washington.
American efforts to advance diplomacy with the Iranian regime and at the same time lobby the Saudis to defeat the JCPOA were among the factors contributing to the failure of the JCPOA, which humiliated the United States in the eyes of the public and international opinion as a violation of the international treaty, creating such trouble for the United States that the only solution was to return the United States to the JCPOA.
Even if we don’t expect to act for Riyadh in the Iran-U.S. case, not only has it not been able to help the U.S. rein in Iran’s regional policies, but it has also lost the ability to confront Iran militarily and cannot build a coalition against Iran.
The rift in the GCC countries, as well as Saudi Arabia’s attempt to lead the Arab world bloc, has widened the rift among Arab countries; and the Saudi disputes with Oman and Qatar over Iran, the disputes with Iraq, the war with Yemen, and even the hatred of Egyptian public opinion for Riyadh will bring a dark future for Saudi Arabia.
All developments suggest that the Saudis cannot be a strategic partner for the United States, even with extensive cooperation with the United States. Now seems to be the best time to resolve the Middle East crisis, but this peace initiative needs to turn the Saudi fire into ashes. Ultimately, history will judge Biden on how he treats and politics the Saudis. A date that will not be repeated twice.
by Pooya Mirzaei