Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat – US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, James Smith, emphasized the strength of relations binding Saudi Arabia and the United States, and highlighted the shared role that must be played by Riyadh and Washington in order to end the Syrian crisis.
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat during a gathering at his home on the night of the US elections, the Ambassador predicted that the US will now adopt a more effective position with regards to Syria, citing the difficulty of America adopting a decisive stance during the election campaign. Likewise, he predicted that the US stance towards several foreign issues will become clearer following the announcement of Obama’s victory.
However, Smith insisted that the US cannot end the Syrian crisis alone; there is a need for collective action to encourage cooperation from both Russia and China to resolve the Syrian issue. The US Ambassador asserted that “The killings being carried out by the al-Assad regime are breaking our hearts”. He stressed the desire of President Obama to resolve a number of foreign issues, most notably restoring negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, responding more strongly to Iran, and working with allies to end the Syrian crisis, in addition to providing support for the new governments in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and assisting the current Yemeni President.
With regards to the reservations being harboured by some in the Gulf region towards America’s supposed backing for the Muslim Brotherhood, Ambassador Smith denied that the Brotherhood received special support from the Obama administration before the rise of the Arab Spring in the region. He stressed the need to adhere to democratic choices, rather than imposing the choices of foreign powers, whilst also askin “where did the Islamists come from?” The Ambassador pointed out that following his victory at the Egyptian presidential elections; President Mohammed Mursi’s first official state visit was to Saudi Arabia.
Regarding America’s understandings with the Muslim Brotherhood, Smith confirmed that President Mursi and his group have displayed pragmatism and have made practical advancements in seeking to solve Egypt’s economic problems and create job opportunities. He added that the Egyptian business community is optimistic about conditions improving. The US ambassador to Saudi Arabia summed up the situation by saying that 87 million Egyptians need bread, “and the kind of robes or length of beard of whoever can guarantee this does not matter.” He added that main thing is for the leadership to possess “the ability to solve the unemployment problem and increase job opportunities. I believe that when [the Muslim Brotherhood] are able to achieve that they will be successful in their presidential experience, although if they cannot do so then they will lose the next election”.
Smith denied that any secret meetings were held between US administration officials and members of the Muslim Brotherhood before the so-called Arab Spring, confirming that “we only met and sat with the Muslim Brotherhood after their candidate had won the election”.