I recently examined a rare document which was prepared on March 1, 1945 . The file reveals the nature of strained Saudi-American ties, reminding us of today.
During that year, the U.S. administration had not appointed an ambassador to Jeddah, and depended on an assigned official, who went by the “minister,” for representation.
Since former Saudi foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Abdulaziz , at the time, was not available, King Abdulaziz assigned his advisor Deputy FM Youssef Yassin to send a message in writing to U.S. Minister Reeves Child. The message would take place after disputes shook the two countries’ bilateral ties.
At the time Washington prohibited the selling of weapons and artillery to Saudi Arabia. Yassin then wrote that Saudi Arabia is prepared to do anything which helps bolster ties among the people of the two nations and that all calls serving joint interests will be answered to, and that required facilitations for the U.S. administration. However, all would take place after guaranteeing national sovereignty which protects the kingdom of Saudi Arabia from being prone to criticism or leads to encouraging accusations of Saudi Arabia being a U.S. colony.
The writing went on saying that joint interests shared with Saudi Arabia are not like any other the U.S. shares with other countries. The Kingdom hoped to drum up those interests; which is why Saudi Arabia was pleased to welcome a U.S. delegation or send a Saudi delegation headed by a prince to the United States.
The formation of the delegation is conditional on assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would receive over U.S. preparedness to reconsider its stance.
Yassin, in his writing, specified to the U.S. minister that the King will be waiting a response within ten days time. After the time window is shut, should the U.S. upheld their refusal, Saudi Arabia will then look into other options.
Afterwards, the U.S. confirmed that it is willing to cooperate and that the delay was due to the administration being occupied with establishing the Atlantic Charter which later came to be known as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
At the time World War II (WW2) had been over for four years, leaving behind incessant battles with the Soviet Union which had begun to expand its territory, chiefly eyeing the Middle East.
It’s the same story but with different versions. Today, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visits the U.S. at a time with great tensions entangling the two countries’ relationship. As we could read in the 1949 letter, Saudi Arabia identifies with the importance of strengthening ties with powerful countries. Nonetheless mutual benefit remains a condition.
One of today’s highlights is Washington abandoning viewpoints supporting Arab nations, like Saudi Arabia, while answering to Iranian expansion and threats. One must realize that the openness to the Ayatollah regime has come at the expanse of Arab countries. The new relationship struck between the U.S. and Iran did not condition Tehran to halt all transgressions against Arab countries like Iraq, Syria, Yemen and of course Arab Gulf states. With Washington abandoning its prior stances, political calculations became jumbled. The confusion had led Saudi Arabia to reconsider options for the first time since the term of U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower– Eisenhower was the U.S. president to lay the foundations to the Saudi-U.S. relationship in 1945 post WW2.
Should Washington desire to preserve interests in the Gulf region, it must realize the mechanics behind the workings of a mutual benefit relationship.
Moreover, with the earth-shattering sway in relationships taken by the U.S. and Iran – from great animosity to extreme proximity- countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, and many others sought to augment ties with Russia and China. Noteworthy, the assent registered between the U.S. and Iranian regime simultaneously aligned with the latter venturing on deploying forces and arms forming sectarian militias then tossing them into battles in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Current tension and concern placed relationships with Washington at its worst.
Sixty seven years later, the relationship requires a long discussion as to understand the basis on which both parties should base collaboration on. Some in Washington believe that Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries can be replaced with Iran, so long that Iranians are proving compliant and prepared to cut hostilities against the West.
I believe Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit represents a chance to discuss the balance on which interests could be measured, and demonstrating that Arab benefits outweigh the Iranian’s by scores.