According to Middle East Observers.
Riyadh completely rejected “the negative, false and unacceptable assessment” of the US intelligence report released by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on February 26, 2021. The document alleged that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “approved” the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018, which the Saudi royal family has firmly denied.
“The Kingdom rejects any measure that undermines its leadership, sovereignty and the independence of the judiciary,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. official statement, stressing that the monarchy had conducted a thorough investigation into the heinous crime and tried and convicted the culprits.
Biden’s dual purpose of putting pressure on the Saudi crown prince
In the wake of the publication of the Khashoggi report, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said America would change its approach to the Saudi kingdom, adding that Washington is not seeking to “sever the relationship”, but rather to “recalibrate it. “.
Washington on Friday announced sanctions and visa bans targeting 76 Saudi citizens under the country’s new human rights policy. Despite targeting the Saudi crown prince in his intelligence report, Washington has not imposed any sanctions on Mohammed bin Salman.
The preference not to sanction Bin Salman suggests that the administration is trying to strike a balance between presenting itself publicly as a human rights supporter without compromising its relationship with Riyadh and alienating regional allies that the United States has still need in the pursuit of their interests, “said Sami Hamdi, Arab political analyst and head of International Interest, a political risk analysis group.
Biden’s main objective in putting pressure on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is twofold, according to Hamdi:
· First, “Biden wants to mark a permanent break with the Trump administration and present an image of his administration as a more responsible authority”;
· Second, Washington wants to “set the example of Bin Salman to send a broader message to American allies that the new administration expects a return to” discipline “in the region in the pursuit of American interests”.
In short, Biden is sending a signal to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that Washington is back to fill the power vacuum left in the region by Donald Trump and will seek specific foreign policy goals. such as a nuclear deal. with Iran, and a negotiated settlement in Yemen, according to the political analyst.
“The Biden administration will likely be an Obama Act 2,” suggests Hamdi. “While Washington’s priorities will prioritize Asia (and more specifically China), Biden will seek to balance the power dynamics in the Middle East to ensure there is no regional power. dominant. [there]”.
“ A whole new dynamic in the Middle East ”
The Biden administration is about to face a whole new dynamic in relations with Arab Gulf actors who “want to be more independent from Washington these days,” says Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, professor of political science at the University of the Emirates and author of several books, including “Le moment du Golfe”.
The Arab Gulf States are trying to diversify their strategic partnerships, going to Asia, Europe and Russia, said the professor, adding that this is a new model that is completely different from what the region was there. 20 or 30 years old. “I’m not sure Washington really understands the new realities in this part of the Arab world,” notes Abdulla.
Thus, Riyadh maintains strong trade ties with China, which is the largest importer of Saudi oil, and develops multi-level working relations with Russia, regardless of whether the United States calls the two countries its main rivals. geopolitics. Turkish newspaper Daily sabah recently alleged that the Biden administration’s change of tone towards Riyadh could push Saudi Arabia closer to Russia, “at a time when the kingdom is less confident in the United States as a guarantor of security.”
“The lesson learned by various Arab regimes, including Saudi Arabia, [during the civil war in Syria] was that Russia supports its allies and partners in the region, unlike the United States, which more and more Gulf states have started to view as increasingly unreliable, ”the newspaper suggests.
Recalibration is a common goal for the United States and Saudi Arabia
While Washington has signaled its intention to “recalibrate” its relations with Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is also asking the United States for clarification on its foreign policy objectives in the region, notes Dr Hesham Alghannam, Saudi political scientist, researcher Fulbright and principal investigator. at the Gulf Research Center, Cambridge.
“Recalibrating / redefining is a common goal, the Saudis want a responsible America, not a security company,” he said. “A clear US policy towards the region as a whole and a clear objective would help the Saudis to engage positively with [the US]. The Saudis will work with a policy if it is clear there will be at least an understanding on both sides of / on the differences ”.
The Saudi political scientist underlines that Riyadh would also be “in favor of a complete solution of the Iranian problem, and not of dividing it into small pieces”.
“The kingdom is not against a positive engagement in negotiations and talks, but we are against the legitimization of Iran’s actions across the region,” he said.
The Biden administration seeks to revert to the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, raising concerns among Gulf allies Washington and Israel, who have previously hailed Donald Trump’s May 2018 decision to tear up the deal.
On February 25, i24NEWS, an international Israeli news channel, reported that the Jewish state was in talks to establish a four-nation defense alliance with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, citing Israeli officials. anonymous. According to the broadcaster, the alleged talks likely came in response to the “growing Iranian threat”. Although Israel does not have official diplomatic relations with Riyadh, it had previously signed peace accords with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as part of the Abraham Accords brokered by Trump.
“So the next step in our relationship [with the US] it’s not necessarily going to be the same as when America was the absolute super partner and the Gulf states were the junior partners, ”suggests Dr Abdulkhaleq Abdulla.
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