Saudi Arabia's Warm Welcome to Syria Sends a Strong Signal to the US: We Can Do Without You
Arab countries welcomed Syria back into the Arab League, sending a signal to the United States that they have a different stance on Syria.
In a recent event, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia stole the spotlight. During the Arab Summit, Arab countries welcomed Syria back into the Arab League, sending a signal to the United States that they have a different stance on Syria. The Crown Prince's excessive embrace of President Bashar al-Assad, with kisses on the cheek and warm hugs, defied the US's disapproval of Syria's return.
As reported by Reuters, the Crown Prince's actions also appeared to mark the end of his wealth accumulation driven by geopolitical realities. Known as MBS, he seeks to reassert Saudi Arabia as a regional power. He leverages his position atop the world's energy giant, heavily dependent on Russian oil, amid the conflict with Ukraine. Shunned by Western countries after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 by a Saudi hit squad, the Crown Prince has emerged as a player that cannot be ignored or denied by the US. However, MBS's approach seems to require a transactional handling.
Skeptical of the US's security promises to Saudi Arabia and tired of its lecturing tone, MBS has instead built relationships with other global powers. Despite US concerns, Saudi Arabia continues to improve its ties with their common enemies.
His fiery confidence on the world stage is not only evident in his reception of Assad. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who attended a meeting in Jeddah, was also welcomed by MBS, who offered to mediate the conflict. It is clear that Saudi Arabia still relies militarily on the United States, which saved it from possible invasion by Saddam Hussein in 1990. The US still monitors Iran's military activities in the Gulf and provides Riyadh with a significant portion of its weaponry.
However, with Washington appearing less engaged in the Middle East and less receptive to Riyadh's concerns, MBS is pursuing his own regional policies with less regard for the views of the US, its strongest ally. "This is a strong signal to America that Saudi Arabia is shaping and restructuring relationships, even without the US," said Abdulaziz al-Sager, Chairman of the Gulf Research Center, referring to the summit. "He didn't get what he wanted from others," Sager added, stating that Saudi Arabia's alignment with regional enemies is based on Riyadh's approach to regional security.
MBS's position was strengthened last year as the Western economies turned to Saudi Arabia to help stabilize the volatile oil market due to the war in Ukraine. This created opportunities for MBS to launch diplomatic offensives, including high-profile appearances. These efforts were aided when Washington declared MBS immune from prosecution for the murder of Khashoggi, despite direct involvement confirmed by US intelligence.
The visit of US President Joe Biden last July has showcased the resurgence of Riyadh's influence. The American leader left empty-handed while the Crown Prince enjoyed a public display of the US's commitment to Saudi Arabia's security.
Saudi Arabia's pivot away from dependence on the United States became evident this year when China mediated a settlement between Riyadh and its arch-rival, Iran, after years of hostility. This shift signifies Saudi Arabia's intention to diversify its alliances and pursue its own regional interests, even if it means less reliance on its traditional ally, the US.
By embracing Syria and reaching out to other global powers, Saudi Arabia is signaling that it can chart its own course and pursue its national interests independently. The warm welcome extended to President Assad and other leaders demonstrates Saudi Arabia's determination to forge new partnerships and play a more assertive role in shaping regional dynamics.
However, it is important to note that Saudi Arabia still relies on the United States for military support and security guarantees, especially in the face of potential threats from Iran. While the Crown Prince seeks to expand Saudi Arabia's regional influence, he must carefully navigate the complex geopolitical landscape and ensure the kingdom's long-term security.
In conclusion, Saudi Arabia's warm reception of Syria and its pursuit of independent regional policies send a strong signal to the United States. The Crown Prince's actions indicate that Saudi Arabia is willing to assert its own interests and diversify its alliances, even if it means reducing its reliance on the US. As Saudi Arabia continues to shape its regional relationships, it remains to be seen how this shift will impact the balance of power in the Middle East and its long-standing partnership with the United States.