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It would not be an exaggeration today to say that Saudi-US relations are the closest that they have ever been, for after nearly a decade has passed since the terrible events of 9/11 it seems that Saudi Arabia today is more of a partner and friend to the US than at any time in the past. Those observing the G20 summit this week will be aware of the important role that Saudi monarch King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz created for his country, and in just a short period of time Saudi Arabia has established itself close to the world’s leading economies, affirming its special position and willingness to become a partner in economic decision-making at an international level.

Perhaps the most distinguishing aspect about Saudi-US relations today is that these relations are not just built upon cooperation in oil or energy fields, or on military cooperation, but they have come to represent relations of mutual interest that go beyond the frameworks of the two countries and transcend the regional and global situation. In other words, cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the US is important as this is something that is in the international community’s interests more than at any time in the past.

Take for example the G20 summit, and how Saudi Arabia played a special role pursuing a policy of stimulating the local economy which in the end strengthened developmental goals at a regional level. Let us examine the issue of international terrorism, and how Saudi Arabia has become one of the leading countries in confronting terrorist organizations and drying up their sources of financing, to the point that Saudi Arabia has become a model in the security field, and its door is constantly being knocked upon by many for consultation and cooperation in confronting terrorism. As for the area of energy, Saudi Arabia has proven decade after decade that it is the country that can be relied upon to stabilize the markets, and experts have acknowledged that its oil policies during the global financial crisis played a leading role in calming the oil market and absorbing the shocks that resulted from the acute speculations on the price of oil.

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz’s meeting with US President Obama is proof not just of US interest in Saudi Arabia as an economic partner, but also its acknowledgement that Saudi Arabia’s policies during the reign of King Abdullah have become the balance of moderation in regional policies. In the past, there was a difference in viewpoint between the two countries on some issues, particularly the peace process, which had a negative impact on integrating relations. What can be observed is that under President Obama the US is more prepared to listen, and in fact a number of US officials disclosed that in the past they sought Saudi support for US policies. As for today, they are more in need of the Saudi viewpoint than anything else.

President Obama is hugely popular within Saudi Arabia, and perhaps enjoys the highest popularity in the region. There are also more than 20,000 Saudi students studying in US schools and universities, with the US being the top destination chosen by Saudi scholarship students.

What crosses one’s mind here is the need for the Saudi Arabians and Americans to increase exchange in the field of education and training so that both sides can maintain this level of relations. We must remember that tragic events such as the events of 9/11 took place at a time that Saudi-US educational ties were at their lowest level. The new generations of Saudi Arabians who studied in the US were created by King Abdullah, who sponsored the scholarship program with the US in a wise manner, and made this one of the priorities of the education policy in his country. The results of this scholarship program can now be seen in turn, and it will be interesting to follow up on the scholarship students who are returning to their country with US education and seeking to make positive contributions.

All that is left is for Saudi-US cooperation to evolve institutes suitable to this level of partnership. It is true that there are a number of committees and relevant parties pursuing dialogue and strategic cooperation, however there is no doubt that this stage of cooperation requires institutions of a different kind. If we say that Saudi Arabia and the US enjoy special relations, than there should be institutes that reflect this, and which are capable of ensuring that the strong convergence that we are seeing today is sustainable. At the level of regional cooperation, the time has come for there to be joint-solutions capable of overcoming some points of contention, and establishing a new phase that reflects a position of moderation and peace on all issues.

King Abdullah was able to remedy the Saudi-US ties, and contribute to turning this into a cooperative relationship which is important to the outside world.

Adel Al Toraifi

Adel Al Toraifi

Adel Al Toraifi is the former Editor-in-Chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper and Al-Majalla magazine. As a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs, his research focuses on Saudi–Iranian relations, foreign policy decision-making in the Gulf, and IR theories on the Middle East. Dr. Al Toraifi holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

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