The United States-Saudi Arabia relationship is a complex and long-standing one, characterized by political, economic, and security interests. Established in 1933, the relationship has deepened over the years, with oil being a central pillar. The US and Saudi Arabia have cooperated on security issues, including counterterrorism efforts and military cooperation.
The US has sold military equipment to Saudi Arabia and provided training and assistance to the Saudi military. The US sees Saudi Arabia as a key partner in maintaining stability in the Middle East and has played a role in regional conflicts and negotiations, including the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Yemeni civil war.
However, the relationship has faced criticism over Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, including the treatment of women, religious minorities, and political dissidents. Human rights organizations and some US lawmakers have called for a reassessment of the relationship in light of these concerns. The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 strained U.S.-Saudi relations, and the US has been a major supplier of arms to Saudi Arabia.
The relationship can be affected by changes in leadership on both sides, with different U.S. administrations emphasizing different aspects of the relationship. In addition to oil, the U.S. and Saudi Arabia have economic ties in finance, technology, and infrastructure development. As the world moves towards a transition away from fossil fuels, both countries are exploring ways to adapt. The dynamics of the relationship can evolve over time based on changing circumstances and priorities.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s interview with Fox News on September 21 attracted significant attention globally, highlighting the Saudi national project and the Kingdom’s transformation as a key promoter of security and stability. The interview revealed that Saudi Arabia is positioning itself among major powers in economic, political, and security matters. The prince’s remarks on US-Saudi relations were crucial in the context of the Kingdom’s foreign policy, as the ties between the two sides have been the subject of extensive debate.
Under President Joe Biden, the US has reevaluated its relations with the Kingdom from a partisan perspective, disregarding the strategic partnership between the two sides that has secured America’s interests in the region over the past eight decades. The disagreements have led to regional and global issues due to the decline in the US’s interests and presence in the Middle East.
The US has exerted pressure on the Kingdom, including urging it to normalize relations with Israel and join the Abraham Accords, similar to the gains made by the Trump administration following the agreements between Israel, the UAE, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. Additionally, the US has pressured Riyadh to increase oil exports to reduce energy prices, which has shown heedlessness to Saudi Arabia’s interest in achieving a supply-demand balance and stabilizing global energy prices.
The US is concerned about Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy approach, including its normalization of relations with Iran, growing ties with China, Russia, and the Saudi bid to join BRICS. The crown prince clarified Saudi Arabia’s position on the normalization of relations with Israel, Iran, and energy policy, highlighting the need for an equitable resolution to the Palestinian cause. He also defended Saudi Arabia’s relations with Russia and China, and its position towards the Ukraine crisis.
The crown prince expressed confidence in Saudi Arabia’s sound foreign policy, stating that the country prioritizes national interests over other factors. He emphasized the importance of diversifying global partnerships, establishing a global position, achieving regional stability, and integrating the Kingdom into regional and global dynamics.
The US may have not absorbed the enormous transformation in Saudi foreign policy, basing its convictions on past perceptions and historical relations. However, Washington has begun to understand its incorrect assessment and miscalculations regarding the Kingdom and its significance as a strategic partner and ally. Riyadh is now seen as an important and indispensable ally for the US to retain its regional clout and pioneering global role.
The US foreign policy towards Saudi Arabia has undergone a significant shift since May 2022, with the US viewing relations as a long-term security partnership. However, in June, the US modified its focus to include political, security, counterterrorism, economic, and energy issues to advance their common vision for a more peaceful, secure, prosperous, and stable Middle East. Saudi Arabia has successfully implemented a different course of relations since then, as evidenced by interactions at the G20 summit in India, the crown prince’s meeting with Biden, and cooperation on the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor project. This corridor demonstrates the US administration’s appreciation of Saudi Arabia’s role in the region and its global standing.
The crown prince confirmed ongoing negotiations to sign a defense cooperation pact between the two sides, which will enhance US interests and save efforts and headaches for Saudi Arabia. This could lead to their second era of strategic relations. Saudi-US relations are expected to shift from focusing solely on security matters to encompassing wider issues, reflecting Saudi Arabia’s current regional and global standing. This success for Riyadh is an outcome of the Kingdom’s effectiveness in managing foreign policy issues and undergoing major transformations.
The crown prince’s confidence in himself, the potential of his nation, and the long-term, sustainable vision for the future of the Kingdom was evident in his interview, which was conducted in English and made convincing arguments. Policymakers and pundits’ comments help build an accurate picture of the Kingdom’s rapid progress, advancement, and transformations. The crown prince’s sharpness and in-depth knowledge of all foreign policy issues are particularly relevant in the context of Saudi Arabia’s relations with the US, which are currently at a sensitive stage due to regional and global uncertainty.
United States Unwavering Commitment to Saudi Arabia
The United States and Saudi Arabia have a long-standing relationship based on mutual interests and strategic cooperation. The alliance is characterized by energy security, economic interests, and strategic military partnership. Saudi Arabia’s strategic location in the Middle East makes it a vital partner for the US in maintaining stability. The US has provided extensive military support to Saudi Arabia, including the sale of advanced weaponry and training of Saudi armed forces. This partnership serves as a deterrent to potential threats and contributes to the balance of power in the volatile Middle East.
In the post-9/11 era, counterterrorism cooperation has taken centre stage in the U.S.-Saudi relationship. Both nations collaborate closely in combating extremist groups, sharing intelligence, and taking measures to combat the financing of terrorism. The U.S. views Saudi Arabia as a key player in regional stability efforts, particularly in addressing conflicts in Yemen and Syria.
However, the U.S.-Saudi alliance has faced significant criticisms and controversies, particularly regarding human rights. Saudi Arabia’s record on issues such as women’s rights, freedom of expression, and the treatment of dissidents has drawn condemnation from human rights organizations and policymakers, leading to calls for a reevaluation of the U.S. commitment to the kingdom.
The geopolitical landscape in the Middle East has evolved significantly in recent years, with the rise of Iran as a regional power and shifting alliances and conflicts placing new pressures on the U.S.-Saudi relationship. The Biden administration has taken a more cautious approach to its relationship with Saudi Arabia, reaffirming the importance of the partnership while emphasizing accountability on human rights issues.
The Ever-Evolving Relationship Between Saudi Arabia and the United States
The Saudi-U.S. diplomatic alliance has been a cornerstone of Middle Eastern geopolitics for decades, with a shared interest in oil and energy security. Saudi Arabia, one of the world’s largest oil producers, and the United States, a major consumer of oil, have cooperated on issues related to oil production, pricing, and security. Military cooperation has also been a critical component of the Saudi-U.S. relationship, with the United States providing advanced weaponry and military technology to Saudi Arabia, positioning the kingdom as a regional military powerhouse.
However, the alliance has faced numerous political challenges, including Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The rise of Iran as a regional power has led to increased tensions in the region, with Saudi Arabia and the U.S. on the same side against Iranian influence. The Arab Spring, conflicts in Yemen and Syria, and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict have further tested the partnership.
Economic interests continue to bind the two nations together, with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 diversifying its economy away from oil and opening up opportunities for American businesses in various sectors. The U.S. remains a critical market for Saudi oil. Under President Joe Biden’s administration, the Saudi-U.S. relationship has seen recalibration, with the Biden administration addressing human rights concerns while maintaining the strategic partnership.
The Strategic Significance of Saudi Arabia to the United States
Saudi Arabia, with its rich history, vast deserts, and significant oil reserves, holds a crucial position in global geopolitics, particularly for the United States. The US’s interest in Saudi Arabia is primarily driven by its energy security, as it holds approximately 18% of the global proven oil reserves. This vast energy resource ensures a stable global oil market, crucial for the US economy. A disruption in Saudi oil production could lead to soaring oil prices, economic instability, and energy crises, impacting American households and industries.
Additionally, Saudi Arabia serves as a critical counterbalance to Iran’s influence in the Middle East, as the ongoing regional rivalry between the two nations has been a defining feature of Middle Eastern politics. The US supports Saudi Arabia as a regional ally to help contain Iran’s expansionist ambitions, maintaining its interests and exerting influence in a region of immense geopolitical importance.
Saudi Arabia has been actively working with the United States to combat terrorism, enhancing national security efforts and preventing terrorist attacks on American soil and against US interests abroad. The country is a significant customer for US defense companies, with billions of dollars in arms sales. The US maintains a military presence in the region, including bases in Saudi Arabia, to safeguard its interests and regional stability.
This presence enables rapid response to threats, enhances deterrence, and provides logistical support for US military operations across the Middle East. Economically, the US has a vested interest in Saudi Arabia, particularly in sectors like defense, energy, and infrastructure development. Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund has invested heavily in US companies, contributing to job creation and economic growth. The US values Saudi Arabia as a source of stability in a volatile region, aiming to maintain internal stability and prevent potential conflicts.