Saudi obstacles as mediator of the MENA, Dr. Al-Saied sheds light

By | Rachel Brooks

December 20, 2020 

Image credit: “The East Side OF Riyadh” by MNmagic is marked with CC PDM 1.0

The United States has long been seen as a foreign policy mediator of the Middle East by its counterparts in the West. Yet, the United States is experiencing a shock wave in policy as Congress is faced with the controversial certification or overturning of the 2020 election cycle. On either side of U.S. politics stands a polarized view of U.S. procedure in the Middle East. One side has more agreeable ties with the Arab states, and the other side has ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Standing as the mediator between the western political approach to MENA diplomacy is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The KSA’s influence stretches back into antiquity, as a leader both of politics and spirituality in the region. As the United States struggles domestically with its own politics, and its approach to western presence in the MENA, the KSA will be the mediator and challenger of the obstacles presented by western intervention in the surrounding region.

Note on U.S. domestic political conflict 
To date, the election cycle of 2020 appears to be rife with fraud and foreign intervention. On the other hand, a large demographic of the American population is heavily opposed to the policies and person of incumbent President Donald Trump, who will be reelected if the Congress nullifies the election results as they currently stand.

The final decision regarding the U.S. election will pave the way to future MENA policy. A Biden administration will have a foreign policy influenced with a Democratic-leaning view, and a Trump led policy will come from the Republican-leaning policy.

Trump’s policies to the prestent saw an accord reached between four of the Arab states and the nation of Israel.  These policies promoting the Jewish state stand in contradiction of Biden’s policies that favor return to the Iran nuclear deal, and promotion of Iran and the Islamic Republic’s economic position. Americans wonder what a regime shift would mean for the future progress of the accords reached, and whether Biden would be reluctant to follow through with the contingencies of these accords. 

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia stands at the center of the normalization accords discourse. While the KSA has not openly signed accords or rushed into western-spurred normalization with Israel, the Kingdom has been the leading voice of changing Arab state rhetoric toward the Jewish state. The Kingdom paces itself, taking the path of cultural acclimation to the idea of friendlier ties with Israel. This is a policy steeped in the ancient traditions of the Arab states. It stands in contrast to the hastier politics of the west. The KSA’s key influential position will be watched carefully by the western world as progress or regress of the Trump era Middle East policy falls into position. The KSA will be seen as a regional ally of a Trump administration, and as an enemy of sorts of the leftist agenda that would be promoted by a Biden administration.

An obstacle standing in the path of KSA’s relationship with the western mediative diplomacy is the negative public image of the Kingdom regional enemies have promoted to the west. Qatar is the leading promoter of negative media regarding Saudi. Qatar stands at odds with Saudi over the KSA’s stiff policies against Qatar for its relationship with Islamist organizations. Biden’s party has a political affinity toward Qatar, as liberal and Democratic organizations have partnered with Qatari government to promote leftist and Islamists narratives in the mainstream media.

Republic Underground spoke with Dr. Najat Al Saied, a researcher for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research. Dr. Al Saied explained the key importance of Saudi’s role as mediator in the MENA region, and how western propaganda and the influence of Islamists backed neighbors presents the KSA with foreign policy challenges.

Do you think that the west is supportive of anti-Saudi rhetoric from radical globalism movements or from the Islamists’ propaganda outlets? Is this damaging to the progress of normalization and modernization in Saudi Arabia and the nations surrounding it?

The West is supportive of anti-Saudi rhetoric from both outlets: radical globalism movements and from the Islamists propaganda. This is not damaging to the progress of normalization and modernization in Saudi Arabia and the nations surrounding it, but it might cause disturbance and divert attention from focusing on development. It also can give a good chance and encouragement for radicals to criticize progression and changes to modernization.   

How involved is Saudi Arabia in mediating peace in regions such as Yemen, or in preventing the expansion of the Iranian regime? 

The Saudi strategy is peace for its neighbors means peace for itself. It doesn’t interfere in any country’s internal issues unless the situation has to do with the country’s stability and security. In the case of Yemen, Saudi Arabia must mediate because of its close borders, and accordingly, it will never allow an armed militia by Iran as the Houthis next to its border.

Preventing the expansion of the Iranian regime is also crucial to Saudi national security. In fact, the war in Yemen was due to Iran’s involvement through its funding to the Houthi militia. The main problem between Saudi Arabia and the Iranian regime is Iran’s funding of militias and proxy wars. Iran uses this strategy for expansion and destabilizing the region beside that it supports dissidents in the region to rebel against their governments. The Iranian regime uses all of these tactics to continue exporting what is called its Islamic revolution. The Iranian regime is completely driven by ideology and has not turned into a state, but it is behaving like a rebel revolutionary.

Under the assumption that Donald Trump’s continued election bids fail, how will a Biden administration be received by the tribes in Saudi? Would this affect the process of the Saudis coalition with other nations in the region? 

Saudi Arabia’s relationship with the US has always been bipartisan and never puts its load on one party. It is ready to deal with any elected president and work out with his administration.

Even if there are challenges in one administration more than the other that doesn’t mean that missions will be stopped and business will fall back. Saudi Arabia has been through a lot of challenges with foreign countries including the US, but it was able to overcome these challenges due to its understanding of the system, its network, and its long relationship with the US.

So, I believe there will be more challenges and difficulties with the Biden administration, but Saudi Arabia will be able to overcome them. History has taught us that there is no president in the US who has been serious in his threatening to a country with important weight politically and economically as Saudi Arabia.     

Will America be seen as an enemy in the region if Biden’s policies are dissimilar from Trump’s or if they are too similar to those of Barack Obama? 

Usually what presidential candidates say in their campaigns is different than their actual policies when they are elected. However, one party doesn’t represent the whole country as well as one administration doesn’t represent the whole of American politics. The region understands very well that there is a huge rift between the Republican and Democratic Party, so if Biden is going to repeat the same failed policies of Obama, he is going to harm the image of the Democratic Party, not the whole America.

There are many good progressions in Trump’s foreign policy mainly the murder of dangerous terrorists as Qasem Soleimani and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, withdrawal from the lame Iranian deal, and constraining Iran economically, the end of ISIS, and finally the peace treaties between Israel and four Arab countries. If Biden is going to take the region back to chaos and failures as in the Obama period, he is going to prove that the Democratic Party is a failure. 

How deeply does anti-Saudi rhetoric motivate Western-Saudi relations? Does Qatar have an organized anti-Saud propaganda position, or is it more sporadic?

Yes, definitely Qatar has an organized anti-Saudi propaganda position. In fact, Qatar’s main goal of funding the lobbies in the US and UK is not to enhance its image as much as damaging the image of Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s main agenda is to create chaos, topple the regimes in the region, and substitute them with Islamists and the Muslim Brotherhood. Qatar is against Saudi Arabia and creating all this propaganda against it because it knows very well that it is one of the main countries in the region that is preventing this to happen.

The West knows all of that, but they are using Qatar to their advantage. Qatar is serving the Western leftists’ agenda in fighting the right. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is considered the enemy to the Western leftists because it is considered as an ally to conservative parties in the West as the Republican Party in the US and the Conservative Party in the UK. The mainstream media is mostly controlled by leftists; accordingly, they will adopt the narrative of Qatar’s propaganda against Saudi Arabia because it serves their agenda eventually.   

Special thanks to Dr. Al Saied for shedding light on the influence of the KSA in the region’s progress.