Syed Zeeshan Haider

In hindsight: what we took away from the Arab-American relations

19 Jun 2017

TLDR: the confrontationist policy is futile

Iran and Saudi Arab would be best served serving their own people

 

If we look at the American elections, after Trump got selected, the analysts were of the view that Trump will completely change the foreign policy. However, my opinion was slightly different.

Trump is a businessman and his first priority will always be bettering the economy of the country. All other policies come afterwards.

During his election campaign, he openly censured Saudi Arabia and the analysts were of the view that he will further widen the gulf between the two countries. The foreign policies made by the Obama government allowed Iran to come out even stronger in the region. Keeping all these circumstances in view, Saudi Arabia struck the aforementioned deal. This deal, being a win-win situation for both countries, has benefited Trump in many ways. These days, Trump is under a lot of criticism given his relations with Russia, his opinions on Obama health care and him terminating the FBI chief. Ignoring all of this, Trump has begun focusing on just one of his promises that is to make the America’s economy strong. He has already started working on filtering out illegal immigrants. American visa requirements have been made even stricter. Trump thinks that he can get the economy back on track if he brings in money from outside (read Saudi Arabia) which will also stop the criticisms he’s being inundated with. Similarly, Saudi Arabia also had much to gain from this.

Saudi Arabia has been quick in observing the entire scenario; they knew that Trump’s foreign policies would be even more unfavourable than Obama’s because he has shown his support for Russia and Iran for fighting ISIS in Syria. This indirectly meant an alliance between America and Iran. Sensing this, Saudi Arabia struck a 250 billion dollar worth of trade and a 110 billion dollar worth of defence deals with the USA and completely turned the tables. Concurrently, Trump has also made his vote bank happy and even the ones criticising him had to admit his efficacy.

Moreover, whatever derogatory remarks Trump had used against the Muslim countries during his election campaigns were overshadowed because he has made up for them by heading one of the biggest summits in the Muslim world.

In the past, Saudi Arabia had offered to fund the Bombings in Syria. However, that offer was declined by the Obama administration. Now, the Syrian regime along its allies has turned the tide of war. Iran has established its influence from Israeli border in Lebanon to the Saudi border in Iraq. This is worrisome for Saudi Kingdom. Striking this deal with the USA has two motives for them; regaining their control back over the Middle East and maintaining military supremacy against Iran and its allies.

Saudi Arabia is well aware of the fact that they cannot defeat their opponents based on conventional means so they are looking for establishing a comparative advantage in defence technology. USA undoubtedly has the most advanced military hardware. But the question arises, are better weapons a guarantee to winning conflicts?  If weapons were the ultimate solution, USA would have succeeded in Vietnam while Russia in Afghanistan. Yemen, the poorest country in Arab world, could not be conquered by Saudi Arabia and its allies, despite the full military support from the West. The West provided latest equipment to anti Assad regime factions in Syria but failed to topple the regime. There is a lesson to learn from all the past and present conflicts. Perhaps, it’s not just the expensive weapons that decide conflicts.

At the end of the day, table talks seem to be the only plausible solution to the situation in the Middle East. Iran and Saudi Arabia; the two Middle Eastern power houses cannot completely outclass each other. The two need to change their policies from hostility to cooperation. Whatever money Saudi Arabia and Iran are spending on weapons and defence should be redirected to the well-being of their citizens. Both great nations need to realise that confrontationist policy is futile.

Published in “Pakistan Today” on 19-06-2017

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