July 5, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10693

Saudi Press Following U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken's Visit To Kingdom: We Clarified To America That Our Relations With It Are Based On Interests And Cooperation; The Era Of Dictates Is Over

July 5, 2023
Saudi Arabia | Special Dispatch No. 10693

On June 6, 2023, U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman and Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan. He also attended meetings with the foreign ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries and with representatives of the coalition for fighting ISIS. According to official Saudi reports, he and his hosts discussed the bilateral relations and strategic partnership between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, the strengthening of cooperation between them, and the developments in the region and the world.[1] According to other reports, Blinken and the Saudi officials also discussed the issues of normalization with Israel and of human rights in Saudi Arabia. [2]

Ahead of the visit, the U.S. State Department issued a statement stressing Washington's commitment to "advancing our security partnership with Saudi Arabia through defense sales… participating in joint military exercises, and countering the proliferation of unmanned aerial systems and missiles to non-state actors [i.e., the Houthis in Yemen] that threaten the peace and security of the region." The statement also stressed that "working with Saudi Arabia to ensure regional stability remains a pillar of our bilateral relationship" and that "this partnership is predicated on our shared interest in security in the Gulf and deterring any foreign or regional power from threatening the region."[3]

However, in practice Blinken's visit took place amid tension between the two countries over several issues, including Iran and the security of the region, Saudi Arabia's warming relations with America's rivals Russia and China, and the decision taken by OPEC+, which includes Saudi Arabia and Russia, to cut oil production. This last decision went against the will of the U.S., which wanted to increase production in light of the global energy crisis.[4]

The disagreements between the two sides – on human rights in Saudi Arabia and the relations with Israel and with the Syrian regime, among other issues – were evident in a press conference held by Blinken and his Saudi counterpart Farhan at the end of the visit. In the press conference Blinken said that the U.S. would continue to play a role in deepening and expanding normalization with Israel, and would also "continue to keep human rights firmly fixed on [the two countries'] bilateral agenda." He reiterated America's opposition to the reinstatement of Syria in the Arab League, saying that the Assad regime has not earned acceptance or recognition. Farhan, on his part, said that normalization with Israel "would bring significant benefits to all," but that "without finding a pathway to peace for the Palestinian people… any normalization will have limited benefits." He added that the partnership with the U.S. remained strong, but that Saudi Arabia would develop its partnership with China as well. As for human rights, he stressed that Saudi Arabia would not respond to pressures. Referring to the issue of cooperation with the U.S. in developing a Saudi civilian nuclear program, he confirmed that there were disagreements between the countries, but added: "We’re working on finding a mechanism for us to be able to work together."[5]    

Articles published in the Saudi press after Blinken's visit stated that the visit had been aimed at improving the relations between the countries and perhaps also at halting the development of the Saudi-Chinese alliance, but that it had not achieved this aim.[6] 

A leaked intelligence document published by the Washington Post on June 8, the final day of Blinken's visit, was another indication of the crisis in the relations. The document stated that, in the fall of 2022, after President Biden vowed to impose “consequences” on Saudi Arabia for cutting oil production, Muhammed bin Salman privately threatened to sever ties with the U.S. and "impose significant economic costs" on it.[7]

Following Blinken's visit, the Saudi press published many articles that reflected the tense relations between the countries. The articles stated that, after a long period in which the Biden administration had been hostile to the kingdom and even threatened to turn it into a "pariah state," it now understands that the relations with it must be based on cooperation and shared interests, not on threats and dictates. They also argued that the Saudi leadership, headed by Bin Salman, has managed to clarify to the U.S. that, in light of the great changes in the world – including the decline in America's power and the advent of other superpowers like Russia and China – Saudi Arabia must be regarded as an equal partner and treated with respect, not with arrogance. One of the articles stated that Biden had realized from the start that Bin Salman was likely to be "a thorn in the side" of anyone seeking to exploit Saudi Arabia, and that this is exactly what happened. Another explained that Saudi Arabia cannot afford to continue pandering to the U.S.

The following are translated excerpts from these articles.

Saudi Writer: The U.S. Must Adopt A Realistic Policy, And Understand It Is Our Partner, Not Our Patron

In his June 11, 2023 column in the Saudi daily 'Okaz, journalist and author Hamoud Abu Taleb urged the U.S. to resume a reasonable policy towards Saudi Arabia, based on partnership rather than patronage. He wrote: "During his visit to Saudi Arabia, [Antony] Blinken made statements that included positive remarks about Saudi Arabia's current policy… He issued a statement, positive in both its language and its content, about his visit and about Saudi Arabia in general, stressing that the relations between the countries would continue to be strategic, as they were in the past, and that efforts were being made to develop and strengthen them from every perspective. 

"These rational and positive statements from Blinken come after, earlier in his presidency, the U.S. expressed rash positions about Saudi Arabia – positions that reflected no political prudence or any true understanding of the changes that have occurred in the world. One of the most important [changes] is the emergence of political and economic forces that compete with the U.S., and which have made their presence felt, exploiting the decline of America's presence in the region and its intention to create tension in its relations with its strategic allies here, chief of them Saudi Arabia.  

"In light of the great changes that have occurred in the world, I hope that this [new American] attitude marks the advent of a realistic and balanced American policy towards others, a policy consistent with the fact that the U.S. is [just] part of the world, not the entire world, and that it is a partner of the world countries, not their patron. Recognizing this will ensure America's survival as an influential power that is respected and trusted. Arrogance and pride are [dangers] that threaten to destroy a force when it reaches the peak of its power. That is what history teaches us."[8]

Saudi Senior Journalist: Bin Salman Has Shown The Americans That Saudi Arabia Does Not Yield To Pressures

Saudi journalist Tareq Al-Homayed, the former the editor of the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote in his column in this daily that the U.S. administration has internalized Bin Salman's message, that the relations with Saudi Arabia must be based on cooperation and shared interests, not on dictates. The following are excerpts from a translation of his article published in the English-language edition of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat:  

"American officials who have visited Riyadh over the past eight months have prioritized interests over making dictates. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a three-day visit to Saudi Arabia last week where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for an hour and 40 minutes. He also met his Saudi counterpart. Soon after, the Washington Post and New York Times came out with important articles on Saudi-American relations. The Washington Post cited a classified document claiming that Crown Prince Mohammed had threatened economic sanctions in [the] wake of American statements over OPEC+’s decision to cut production during the midterm elections. Is there any truth in this?

"Crown Prince Mohammed certainly showed - without a shadow of a doubt – [to] the American administration, and other powers, that Saudi Arabia has its interests and that whoever wants to approach it must speak the language of interests, not demands and dictates…

"It appears that the American administration has realized this. It has sent numerous officials to help mend relations with Riyadh. For the first time in a long time, the Washington Post actually published a news article about the Kingdom, rather than a piece of incitement against it…

"This demonstrates that the Saudi leadership, under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has proven that Riyadh does not yield to pressure. It does not care about the American blessing…

"Developments are proving this point and the Saudi-American relationship is again returning to the language of interests, not defiance and tensions. The Washington Post’s leaked document highlights an important point. In public, the Saudi government defended its actions politely via diplomatic statements. But in private, the messages to the American administration were harsh.

"Saudi Arabia wanted to deliver a message and not play the hero as many figures in the region try to do.This is what Riyadh has done throughout the year. It showed everyone, including Washington, that the only way to speak to it is through the language of interests and this is enough to maintain political ties. Of course, the message has been delivered - through Saudi skill."[9]

Saudi Columnist: Whoever Seeks To Cooperate With Us Will Profit, But Whoever Seeks To Dictate To Us Will Lose

Saudi journalist Haila Al-Mashouh wrote on June 13 in her column in the daily 'Okaz: "In the beginning of this month [June 2023] U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken visited Saudi Arabia and divided his time between Riyadh and Jeddah. Before [his visit], the U.S. State Department issued a statement clarifying the depth of the strategic and security relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, which have been ongoing for 80 years. What does Washington expect to derive from this visit, after years of cool [relations between the two countries] and of statements that contradicted this [recent one, such as President Joe] Biden's famous threat in November 2019 to turn Saudi Arabia into a 'pariah state'? What has changed between 2019 and 2023?...

"In 2022 President Biden visited Saudi Arabia for the Security and Development Summit in Riyadh [sic][10] and held several meetings with the Saudi leadership. After the visit the Americans thought they had solved the oil problem. The American administration did not even consider [the possibility] that Saudi Arabia's policy is not managed through [diplomatic] visits and that this visit had not produced [the desired results]. [It forgot] that Saudi Arabia operates in the framework of international agreements and that it has shared interests with other allies within a broad political and economic system… [In fact,] as part of its openness to political partnerships with the entire world, Saudi Arabia hosted over 70 heads of state during 2022.

"Today Saudi Arabia is a compass for and an arena of economic opportunities and investments. There are plenty of options and there is global momentum.  Anyone who knocks on our door seeking cooperation and shared interests is a welcome [guest in our country], which benefits all those who bet on it. [But] whoever knocks on our door seeking to dictate to us and set terms will receive nothing more than generous hospitality – and then goodbye."[11]

Saudi Columnist: The Era Of Dictates Is Over; Our Relations With China Will Develop According To Our Interests, Not America's

In a column titled "The Era of Dictates Is Over" in the Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Bahraini journalist Susan Al-Sha'er wrote in a similar vein: "When will the U.S. realize that Saudi Arabia does not yield to anyone's dictates?... It is a known fact that Saudi Arabia has not and does not heed any pressures, but [in the past] it did not openly express its refusal… [whereas] today it takes every opportunity to note that it does not succumb to pressures. This has been expressed by all its officials, most recently by Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who told his American counterpart Antony Blinken, with conspicuous explicitness, that 'Saudi Arabia will not yield to pressures regarding human rights.' Before this, Saudi Oil Minister Prince 'Abd Al-'Aziz said that 'Saudi Arabia will not yield to pressure in any domain, including that of the oil market…'

"As for Saudi Arabia's foreign relations, Prince Faisal said, in a statement that explicitly described [the Saudi] priorities, that 'China is an important partner,' but that 'we will continue to strengthen our relations with the U.S. as another important ally.' There [must be] no dictates or interference. Any mention of China must first of all conform to Saudi Arabia's interest, not to America's. The interests of the two [countries] cannot converge when there are dictates and pressures, as there were in the past."[12]

Cartoon in Saudi daily: China trying to oust U.S. from its hegemonial position in "the Middle East" (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, June 11, 2023)

Saudi Journalist: The New Saudi Arabia Is Revealing Itself To The World; It Cannot Continue Pandering To The U.S.

Journalist Mashari Al-Dhaidi wrote: "…Several in-depth analyses in the American press have accused the Joe Biden administration of hostility towards the current Saudi [leadership], especially towards Prince Muhammad bin Salman, the leader and creator of the new Saudi vision. The details [of this new vision] have begun to emerge, and it is not just another [package of] dreamy promises, as the U.S. press used to allege, along with some politicians who are experts in hating Saudi Arabia. 

"The Saudi ship is on a confident course. The vision is becoming a reality, and Saudi Arabia's options are numerous. In its current activity, it can no longer afford to waste time pandering to the U.S. or to various other powers. The plan is a firm one. Whoever wishes to cooperate with Saudi Arabia is welcome, and any other [course of action] is like trying to hold onto the wind.

"This is the new Saudi Arabia, which is showing itself to the world in all its truth and brilliance – brilliance that even those with poor eyesight can discern."[13]

Senior Saudi Writer: Biden Realized That Bin Salman Would Be A Thorn In The Side Of Anyone Trying To Exploit Saudi Arabia

Saudi journalist and author 'Abdo Khal addressed a leaked document published by the Washington Post, according to which Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman threatened to impose significant economic costs on the U.S. if the latter retaliated against Saudi Arabia's decision last year to cut oil production. Khal stated that Bin Salman's policy matches this statement, and that he has clarified to the U.S. that Saudi Arabia is worthy of respect, like the other superpowers.

He wrote: "Whatever the [exact] content of the classified U.S. document that was leaked to the Washington Post – according to which Prince Muhammad [bin Salman]  warned the U.S. that it would suffer painful economic consequences if it retaliated [against Saudi Arabia's] decision to cut its oil production last year – the prince's actions match his statements. In many diplomatic signals, he forcefully conveyed that Saudi Arabia's national interest supersedes any historical or geographical [consideration].  

"The history of [President] Biden shows that, from the very start, he tried to court his opponents by treating the [Saudi] kingdom as an enemy. He said in many speeches that, once he reached the White House, Saudi Arabia would become a pariah state, and stressed his hostility towards Prince Muhammad bin Salman, citing all the allegations made against the [Saudi] state and leadership. Throughout his presidency, Biden made efforts to neutralize Muhammad bin Salman… He judged that this young man – who arrived charged with determination, pride and faith in his country's prowess – was likely to be a thorn in the side of anyone trying to take advantage of Saudi Arabia, and [realized that], if necessary, this young man would have no problem becoming [Biden’s] enemy.

This explains Biden's hostility. It stems from his realization that this young man, Prince Muhammad bin Salman, is a leader who appreciates the strength of his country and aims to prove that it is one of the great [powers].

"Biden's prediction came true. Prince Muhammad bin Salman was indeed aware of his country's capabilities and its status as an independent force, and wanted it to attain the status it deserves. Accordingly,  he held ties with all the global forces, and showed he was giving precedence to [Saudi Arabia's] national interests, regardless of its historical political ties with other countries. He demanded that others do the same, without dictates and pressure, based only on shared interests, regardless of past or present hostilities. His main plan is to give his country the status it deserves as a human, economic and religious force on a par with the superpowers. Mutual relations between superpowers do not involve pressures or dictates, but [only] joint national interests…"[14]



[1] Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), June 7, 2023;, June 6, 2023;, June 7, 2023.

[2] Al-Arab (London), July 8, 2023;, June 7, 2023.

[6] Al-Arab (London), June 9, 2023;, June 10, 2023; Al-Arabi Al-Jadid (London), June 11, 2023.

[7], June 8, 2023.

[8] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 11, 2023.

[9] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 11, 2023.

[10] The Security and Development Summit was held on July 16, 2022 in Jeddah, rather than Riyadh, as stated above, and was attended by the leaders of nine Arab countries and the U.S.

[11] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 13, 2023.

[12] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 18, 2023.

[13] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), June 16, 2023.

[14] 'Okaz (Saudi Arabia), June 11, 2023.

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