Ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Saudi Arabia, planned for March 28, 2014, the director of Al-Arabiya TV and former editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, 'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, wrote an article on Saudi-U.S. relations. In it, he argued that these relations are important and strategic, but that the U.S. must understand that friendship does not mean subordination and that Obama has no right to tell the Saudis how to manage their affairs.
On the issue of the Iranian nuclear dossier, Al-Rashed called to give the negotiations with Iran a chance, for the sake of the possibility, however slim, that the U.S. will manage to moderate Iran's policy.
The following are excerpts from the article:
'Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed (image: alarabiya.net)
"If [U.S.] President Barack Obama does not postpone his planned visit to the Saudi capital, it will be his most important visit to the kingdom since becoming president... There have been many speculations as to which topics [will be discussed during the visit], including Syria, the nuclear negotiations with Iran, [Saudi Arabia's] purchase of Russian arms for Egypt, etc., but there have been very few [declarations about this] from the White House. [U.S.] National Security Advisor Susan Rice did mention a few topics; perhaps the most significant [statement] was that 'during the visit Obama will express his commitment to Gulf security.' This indicates that Obama wants to assure the Saudis that the U.S. will not abandon its years-long commitment to Saudi and Gulf security, a commitment [originally] made by [Dwight] Eisenhower [in 1957 as part of] what is known as the Eisenhower Doctrine...
"U.S.-Saudi relations, launched in 1933, are almost the only [instance of] stable [relations] in the region. Both sides have grown used to the crises between them, which have tested these relations, and not only in the era of Obama, whose policy differs from Saudi Arabia's on many [issues, including] Egypt, Bahrain, Syria and Iran.
"Saudi King 'Abdallah bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz is a courageous man who has taken weighty decisions on both domestic and foreign affairs. Who would have dreamt to see Saudi tanks crossing the bridge [between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain] to support the Bahraini regime, [a step that was taken] when Saudi Arabia realized the dangerous Iranian plan of changing [the regime there] in the shadow of the Arab Spring in the region? Who [but the king] would have dared... to support [Egyptian Defense Minister] General 'Abd Al-Fattah Al-Sisi without hesitation? Who [else] could cope with the worst conflict ever experienced in the region by supporting, for three years without a break, the revolution against Iran's ally, the Bashar Al-Assad regime, and against the forces of Iran and Hizbullah? Who would have imagined that [former Yemeni] president 'Ali 'Abdallah Saleh would be deposed as part of an agreement forged by Saudi Arabia for the sake of establishing a moderate popular regime [in Yemen]?
"The fact is that the U.S., which disagrees with Saudi Arabia [on many issues] – except on the Yemeni issue – must understand that friendship is not subordination. The distrust [of the U.S.] may stem from the general feeling prevailing in the region that President Obama has opted for a policy of distancing [the U.S.] from the region and exiting it. Hence, Obama has no right to decide for the Saudis how to manage their affairs and how to defend themselves.
"Despite the many disagreements [between the two countries], Saudi Arabia understands that the relations with the U.S. are strategic rather than tactical and are not to be taken lightly. As for the nuclear negotiations with Iran, which Obama regards with enthusiasm while Saudi Arabia is skeptical about their [chances of] success – [I believe that] everyone should give the negotiations a chance. If the U.S. manages to modify Iran's policy and guide it towards moderation and towards relinquishing the policy of militarism and conflicts, Saudi Arabia will benefit. Naturally, the chances of this [seem] slim, but who knows, maybe I am mistaken.
"The U.S. interest in Saudi Arabia's internal stability is understandable, considering the significant importance [of this country]. Saudi Arabia has succeeded in its war on Al-Qaeda's terrorism and has demonstrated that it is standing fast amid the Arab Spring upheavals and that it can handle its domestic affairs in the best [possible] way – even better than its American friends believe."