In a world replete with conflicting interests, no country can claim to be powerful or impose its prestige unless it possesses the necessary tools. Nor can any country force major states that oppose it to respect its stances and policies. The prestige of the state cannot be imposed overnight or by means of financial power. Rather, it is the accumulation of mature and rational political stances and clear-sighted positions. A state’s prestige is based on its ability to interpret and predict risks.
Here in Paris, where Saudi Crown Prince Salman Bin Abdulaziz is currently on a state visit, the clear message that is being put forward is that Saudi Arabia is politically and economically essential for the region. This is something that was clear from French President François Hollande’s speech welcoming the Crown Prince to France, as well as the Crown Prince’s discussions with France’s top officials—such as the prime minister and foreign minister.
“Is this something new? Have you just realized this fact?” I asked a senior French official. He answered: “No. But the recent developments and crises in the region reaffirm that Saudi Arabia’s vision has been closest to reality. Whether on the Palestinian cause, the Arab peace initiative, in Syria, Lebanon or Yemen, or on issues relating to the stability of oil markets and the global economy, Saudi Arabia has always taken the most realistic position. As for the most important issue we are currently facing, namely terrorism, Saudi Arabia demonstrated early an awareness of its dangers.” The French official then quoted Crown Prince Salman’s warning that terrorism is a disease that threatens the security and stability of the world.
The West made a mistake when it thought it could determine the stability equation in the region; this was a tough lesson. World capitals were drawn to the “Arab Spring,” believing in their ability to impose Western agendas on purely Arab problems. The United States, the world’s greatest superpower, has now realized this fact, announcing it is set to adopt a global strategy to eradicate terror. But US President Barack Obama also avoided speaking frankly when he said that it was encouraging to see regional states, who did not always agree in the past, being committed to jointly fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Obama said this meant it would be possible to build an international alliance to fight terrorism.
Excuse me, Mr. President, but it has been your own policy that has been lax in building this alliance, not the countries of the region. The US, for example, failed to respond to the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques’ calls for the establishment of an international counter-terrorism center.
A Sky News TV reporter asked me on Wednesday about the reason for France’s warm welcome for the Saudi Crown Prince. I answered that Paris has long been aware of Saudi Arabia’s major role in preserving the security and stability of the region and that its welcome for Crown Prince Salman was a natural outcome of the Kingdom’s international status.
This was expressed by the French president himself, who said: “France and Saudi Arabia have been clear concerning the seriousness of the Syrian crisis. Our two countries have called on the international community to intervene, but their call has not always been met. They support those fighting the dual brutality of Bashar Assad and the jihadists.”
Saudi Arabia has never asked for international appreciation. But the Kingdom’s status and policies have naturally won this praise. Riyadh’s international alliances are based on mutual interests and Saudi Arabia’s clear vision—which has proven true and sound. Perhaps the best way to describe the strength of Riyadh’s alliances is to borrow from what President Hollande said to Prince Salman: “France knows the value of friendship [and] the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of our dearest friends.”