By tomorrow we will know who the new president of the United States of America will be, Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama, ushering in a new, critical era that will affect our region and our Islamic world.
The new president will be faced with the mission of wrapping up the two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan successfully or bringing them to an end, as well as the Arab-Israeli issue and dealing with Iran. The new president will also have to launch the battle of reforming the American economy, the effects of which are global.
The new president would not be able to do all of the above in isolation of our region, as oil is a key factor in stabilizing the American and world economy. Therefore, in consideration of this forthcoming era from the angle of our region, and who will benefit most from it, all the indications point towards Saudi Arabia.
Following the tragic events of 9/11, Riyadh once again became an important factor that Washington could not ignore. Some saw this as Saudi luck but luck plays no part in politics; rather it is based on mastering the language of interests.
To say that Saudi Arabia will benefit the most in our region is not wishful thinking inasmuch as it is based on the facts on the ground that go back to political rationality and facing important internal and external issues. If Obama becomes president and wants to improve America’s reputation and put an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (the president of which has already called for a Saudi role) and to solve the financial crisis, then he will go to Riyadh.
If Obama’s goal is to initiate dialogue then he stands by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, who has already launched interfaith dialogue. If Obama wants to improve Arab-Israeli relations, then he has the Saudi Arabian initiative for peace in his hands, which Israel now welcomes.
As for dealing with Iran, Obama cannot ignore Saudi Arabia, as the drop in oil prices to approximately $70 per barrel is tragic for the Iranian regime in contrast to Riyadh. Accordingly, the Saudi political role will have considerable influence contrary to the diminishing political significance of the Iranian dollar on issues in the Middle East.
Some might say that Obama attacked Saudi Arabia during the election because of oil, as did his vice-presidential nominee Joe Biden before him, but American history shows that whilst six American presidents since Nixon have pledged to move away from Saudi oil, in reality, the opposite occurred.
All of this also applies to McCain if he were to ascend to presidency; he would also find that Saudi Arabia has an important a role as mentioned above. In addition, since McCain is running for one presidential term only, should he wish to make historic breakthroughs with regards to the Palestinian issue, he will find himself dealing with Saudi Arabia that launched the Arab Peace Initiative in this regard.
Saudi Arabia is also a pivotal country with regards to Iraq since it does not have its own ambitions towards Baghdad unlike Iran and has a strong record on trying to break Al Qaeda. This pushed Ford M. Fraker, the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia to state that with regards to the fight against terror, Saudi Arabia is a great success story, and that Riyadh is the only city in the Middle East to have defeated Al Qaeda at home.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently visited a rehabilitation centre for extremists near Riyadh where he met a number of inmates. Moreover, Gordon Brown, an economic expert, also praised the Saudi financial system.
A few days ago, the French Foreign Minister [Bernard Kouchner] spoke about the role of Saudi Arabia, a role that cannot be overlooked. In conclusion, Saudi Arabia is entering a new era.