AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman
In the 1950s, the battle cry of critics of American foreign policy was “Who lost China?” In 2023, we are in danger of being forced to reckon with the question “Who lost Saudi Arabia?”
The news late last week that Saudi Arabia and Iran, whose rivalry has driven Middle Eastern politics for over a decade, have set aside their differences enough to restore diplomatic relations shocked the world. Worse, from the perspective of the United States, the reconciliation was mediated by the People’s Republic of China.
A beaming Wang Yi, one of the most senior figures in the Chinese Foreign Ministry, stood between the Saudi and Iranian representatives in a Beijing ceremony which seemed designed to mimic the pageantry of the Abraham Accords.
It did not quite reach the level of its inspiration. Wang Yi is not the Chinese Foreign Minister, much less Xi Jinping, and neither the Saudi Crown Prince nor Iran’s President were present.
Instead, the countries were represented by their respective national security advisors. The importance the parties attached to the agreement, which after all was about restoring diplomatic ties, not about the mechanics of any specific cooperation, was inflated by a Washington media and foreign policy establishment more rattled by Beijing’s involvement than the actual substance of the agreement.
This does not mean, however, that the announcement should not concern Washington, or America’s allies in the region, especially Israel, where Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government traded accusations with his predecessor, former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, over who was responsible for “losing” Saudi Arabia.
The answer is no one, at least not yet. The same day the deal was announced, the Saudi government announced its conditions for normalizing relations with Israel, an unthinkable prospect prior to the Abraham Accords and a sign that even with restored ties to Tehran, Riyadh would prefer a westward orientation.
Saudi Arabia requested explicit security guarantees from the United States, along with the delivery of promised support for its civilian nuclear program.
Geopolitically, these requests seem reasonable enough. The U.S. seems prepared to offer security guarantees to Ukraine when Russia poses a much more formidable threat than Iran, much less Yemen, and the integrity of the Saudi monarchy has been a core principle of U.S. policy in the region since the 1940s.
While hesitancy regarding any nuclear program is understandable, the U.S. is negotiating to help supply Iran with fuel for its “civilian” nuclear program, purportedly to prevent the development of a weapons program. It is unclear what basis exists for denying the Saudis the same – except for hostility toward Saudi Arabia itself.
That sentiment has grown strong among Democrats in Congress, who even called for sanctions last fall when the Saudis refused to back OPEC price cuts on oil before the midterm elections.
This attitude has not gone unnoticed by the Saudis, nor should it have. They live in a dangerous neighborhood, where the fate of those who lose the “game of thrones” has been amply demonstrated.
A significant portion of Democrats in the United States have made clear how happy they would be to see the Saudis displaced, perhaps even by Iran, as America’s ally in the region. As a result, the reliability of long-term U.S. support has been understandably called into question. From the perspective of the Saudis, it would be foolish indeed to burn their bridges with Moscow and Beijing when too many in Washington would like rid of them.
The proposed terms for normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel can be interpreted as a test of the American commitment to their bilateral relationship.
If the United States is willing to commit to Saudi Arabia as it has to Ukraine, and to trust the Saudi regime with a nuclear program, Saudi Arabia is willing to undertake the major step of normalization with Israel. If the United States is not willing to do so, the message will be that Washington does not trust Saudi Arabia with a nuclear program, nor is it willing to commit to a future partnership with Saudi Arabia.
At that point, Riyadh will have no choice but to pursue other options, and the recent agreement with Iran, as well as Xi Jinping’s visit to the Kingdom in December, make clear what one of those options will be.
The irrationality and temperamental immaturity is not coming from the Saudis, Iranians, or Chinese, but from the United States.
It would be one thing if the United States had an alternative to the Saudis that could play a similar role in regional security, global energy markets, and the Islamic world. But the United States does not.
Hopes that a moderating Iran might play such a role in reality died with the Shah’s regime in 1978, and should now be buried with Iran’s open cooperation with Russia in Ukraine and the violence with which the regime is suppressing internal opponents. Even the Biden team insists that restoring the deal is not a priority for the moment, though Iran says they have continued to receive backchannel proposals.
What, then, does antagonizing Saudi Arabia accomplish? It creates a situation in which the United States pays all the costs it otherwise would for a Saudi alliance, including the protection of Saudi interests in the region, but reaps fewer of the benefits due to forcing the Saudis to watch their back and pursue fallback options. This was the basic insight that Donald Trump’s administration brought to office – paving the way for the Abraham Accords.
Saudi Arabia has not been “lost” yet. But if the United States does not treat Saudi Arabia like an ally, then the Saudis will look to others who will. And if human rights and “the liberal international order” are obstacles to a close relationship with Washington, the Saudis will look to those who are less bothered by such scruples.
In such an event, it may not be only Saudi Arabia that is lost. Israel too is receiving its fair share of hostility from the Democratic Party, with some Democrats even describing America’s strongest Middle East ally as an “apartheid” state.
With one of the world’s leading hi-tech industries, Israel would be the greatest prize in the region for China, which is facing a U.S.-led blockade on technological imports. If the U.S. is not careful, China delivering Saudi-Iranian normalization might turn out to just be a warm-up act. Israeli-Saudi normalization, paired with a Sino-Israeli free trade deal next year, could turn out to be the real show for Chinese diplomacy in the region.
Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.
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Biden would rather beg Saudi’s for more oil for US than restart XL Keystone pipeline in US and more than 3 drilling pads in Alaska.
Correct. In the Alaska deal, he only authorized 3 drilling sites instead of the 5 requested. That’s giving the oil company only 60 percent of what they wanted for leases they purchased all the way back in the Bill Clinton administration. Yes, Chevron has been battling in court all these years to end up with just 60 percent of what was to be a test site given the expected oil reserves that are now largely off limits. Is it any wonder why it took until Trump being President to shake loose some of the crippling bureaucracy that prevents us from being the world’s largest energy producer? Now with Biden, we’re back to begging OPEC for “just a few barrels more”.
Oh and by the way, Biden also put 16 million acres of the 23-million-acre tract in Alaska under federal protected land status as part of the deal. The people of Alaska are furious. Meaning that no one will ever be able to drill or develop any of that land going forward. So while the media is saying “maybe Biden had a change of mind”, the reality is he tossed a few crumbs with one hand to the oil company after decades and 10s of millions in legal fees, while with the other hand he locked down millions of acres of known oil rich land from ever being developed. Biden iis certainly giving FDR a run for his money as the most destructive President to hold office.
biden lost Saudi Arabia and the Solomon Islands to Communist China.
Funny though that biden begged Saudi Arabia for Oil (Instead of leaving the United States #1 in Energy Independence Drilling Oil and Natural Gas with Coal Mining) and let Prince off for murder charges but continues to let Communist China break sanctions buying Oil from Iran.
Bottom line, Continuous FAILURE of foreign policies or enforcement of sanctions on Iran or any other foreign country for that matter.
Now, Saudi Arabia and Iran are buddies with Communist China reopening their embassies there thanks to biden.
And we LOST a strategic alliance with the Solomon Islands on top of it that the United States had since WWII.
Failure after failure is biden’s legacy.
It’s not so much who lost Saudi Arabia, but rather who intentionally gave it and other Middle Eastern countries away. The answer to that is of course obviously Joe Biden and his team of merry socialists. From Day One in office, the Biden administration was determined to undo all the successes President Trump achieved with the Abraham Accords. Too much peace and cooperation was breaking out in the Middle East and that had to be reversed at all costs. You can’t have war and make a lot of money in arms sales to the various middle eastern countries, if everyone is getting along and Iran is effectively isolated and going broke. So, Team Biden not only began a campaign of alienate the Saudis, but also have done their best to do the same with every other American ally in the Middle East. The disastrously incompetent Afghanistan withdrawal just helped put an emphasis on the point that the United States was changing course under new leadership. All while ending the Iranian sanctions and crawling back to the Iranians in hopes of getting Obama’s ludicrous Iranian Nuclear Deal reinstated.
So, with most of our middle eastern allies realizing that the United States under Joe Biden was NOT going to have their backs or pursue any of the policies put forth by President Trump, they obviously began looking at the country that the United States has been deferring to since Biden was sworn in. That being China. Countries look to establish alliances with strong nations, not weak or declining ones. So, when the Saudis see the United States routinely defer to China, that sends a powerful message. We shouldn’t be surprised that China took advantage of our weakness under Joe Biden to persuade the Saudis to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran.
Right!!! Biden is selling US out. If Michelle runs and wins, she will do worse.
I won’t vote for Michelle; it would just be a continuation of a dynasty. In fact, the only person I would vote for is President Trump. Just President Trump.
Michelle Obama is NOT going to run for POTUS. She neither has any interest in politics, aside from getting rich off it, nor has any qualification to actually handle the duties of POTUS. Being married to Barrack Obama did not magically make her qualified to for the role. Outside of a no-show job she was handed once Barrack became a U.S. Senator, she has never worked in the private sector.
The people putting out that propaganda about Michelle Obama are only trying to intimidate Republican voters into selecting one of the so-called “moderate” Republicans for POTUS instead of either Trump or DeSantis. In short, they are playing the American public for fools. Don’t fall for it. We are NOT going to get this country back on track by choosing some weak-kneed, finger in the air testing why way the polls are blowing career politician in 2024.
The Republican Party has a lot of people that would certainly qualify. Some of them seem hesitant to run. Also, there is this little problem with the votes being counted one way up until midnight; and then, another way @0200. So, if the votes are not even counted correctly what is the point? What about ‘Lap Top Hunter’ for King?
Right now, the question remains: “Why won’t Saudi Arabia bail out the World’s Banks?
God Bless & Protect These United States of America!
Why should they?
That was my really awful sardonic sense of humor getting in the way! Apologies. However, I didn’t think anyone had the time to read it anyway. I thought everybody was with their stockbroker this morning; or converting cash to silver & gold. Or, just watching the European Stock Markets Collapse, or changing their Attends. Also, Credit Suisse was denied help from one of their biggest customers: Saudi Arabia. The Stock Market Channel looks a ‘little’ distraught. Who do I blame for all of this? I don’t know. However, Biden & Co. was reassuring us yesterday; that EVERYTHING WAS ‘A OK’!! Liberal: SNAFUED!!!
Thanks for asking. I always like your comments. You always present your comments in an adult fashion. Just call me: Curmudgeon!
LOL!!! That was great! Very amusing indeed. Just imagining the imagery around all those scenarios was fun.
As for the Saudis and Credit Suisse, they have told Credit Suisse they are done funneling them any more money after about 2 years of promising to right the ship. CS is an incredibly poorly managed bank with problems going back at least 5 years. So if Credit Suisse can’t make a go of it, the bank regulators should simply put the bank up for auction. One or more of the larger, well run banks will bid for the various pieces of Credit Suisse worth anything and the rest and simply go away. Depositors will be covered up the $250K limit per account and everything will be fine.
By the way, that is what the Federal Reserve and the Treasury should have done with both SVB and Signature Bank last Friday night instead of bailing both out on Sunday. Thus saving the American taxpayers billions in that special deal they handed both banks to buy back their discounted treasuries at par value. The reason given by the government as to why they didn’t do that is because the bidders for both institutions weren’t the type of type of buyers that the management of both SVB and Signature wanted. That means the bidders weren’t committed to continuing the “woke” policies and favoring lending to Democrat connected individuals and companies rather than running both firms as straight-forward banks.
A little explanation. As I read some of the news regarding the European Stock Market Decline; I noticed that there was a little news regarding Credit Suisse; that was denied help from one of their biggest customers: Saudi Arabia. No, they are not really obligated to help anyone. Yours Truly, Curmudgeon/George Washington’s Admirer
Saudi Finance Minister on Bartiromo (FOX Business) this morning said Saudi laws do not allow investment of more than 10% of sovereign fund capitol in any one institution.
Sovereign Wealth Fund (not sovereign fund Capitol)
Sounds good to me. They look after number one & so should we. At least with Trump he looked after America First. In fact, EVERYTHING was better with Trump. He didn’t delicately tip toe through the tulips; but, he kept us out of war, the economy was doing better, and he was openly communicative.
That is correct. The Saudi Wealth Fund, for risk mitigation purposes, cannot put more than 10 percent of the fund’s total net liquid assets into a single entity. That’s called prudent risk management in the financial world.
Who lost Saudi Arabia? Any thing politically undesirable always seems to have the DemocRat Party attached to it somehow.