Source: Middle East Eye
By Madawi al-Rasheed, who is visiting professor at the Middle East Institute of the London School of Economics. She has written extensively on the Arabian Peninsula, Arab migration, globalisation, religious transnationalism and gender issues. You can follow her on Twitter: @MadawiDr
Since the discovery of oil in the country in the 1930s, Saudi Arabia has been an important hub for western interests in the Middle East region.
King Salman bin Abdulaziz will leave the throne almost a century later. His successor will no doubt see this pivotal role gradually being eroded under a changing global energy market. As the US is no longer dependent on Saudi oil, or that of the Middle East in general, the kingdom’s special relationship with the US will be demoted, leaving the country exposed to regional and international hazards.
Trump’s stamp of approval
Under US President Donald Trump, the new leadership in Riyadh – above all, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – enjoyed a momentary sigh of relief as the president continued to maintain close relations with the prince, manipulating his fears and worries, and supporting his spending spree on arms. The prince figured he could get away with murder, and he literally did.
When Mohammed bin Salman oversaw the murder of Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, Trump rewarded him by stating: “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”
Trump’s rambling echoed well in Riyadh, providing the necessary comfort for an embattled king whose son’s brutality knew no limits
The statement was a godsend for the crown prince. But Trump went even further, adding: “In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. They have been a great ally in our very important fight against Iran. The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region. It is our paramount goal to fully eliminate the threat of terrorism throughout the world.”
Noting that Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-producing nation in the world after the US, Trump continued: “They have worked closely with us and have been very responsive to my requests to keeping oil prices at reasonable levels … I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm. Very simply it is called America First.”
Trump’s rambling echoed well in Riyadh, providing the necessary comfort for an embattled king whose son’s brutality knew no limits. This feeling of comfort may not last after the king’s departure, which may coincide with a change of minds and hearts in Washington after the US election in November.