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Saudi Arabia’s Paramount Stature

By Mehmood-Ul-Hassan Khan

Saudi Arabia, being the biggest economy of the region, is seriously and sincerely trying its levels best to maintain bright socio-economic prospects of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by extending generous financial assistance and making huge investments in these regions.

Its macro-economy stands tall in the ongoing global economic recession, EU/US debt crisis, and the last but not the least universal financial crunch. It extends its resources and financial reserves ($590 billion foreign exchange reserves, the third largest in the world after China and Japan) for the betterment of its people and regional economies. Its strong political commitment is now all out for the Palestine drive for the UN slot in September 2011.

Diplomatic surge is at its peak in Riyadh these days. It is also extending its good connections and political leverage to defuse high tensions between Pakistan and the USA in these days. Emerging geo-political and geo-strategic trends in the region and around the globe has given a golden opportunity to its leadership to play a contributory and supportive role in GCC and MENA. It offered its diplomatic support to Sudan, Egypt, Syria and even Yemen to reach at any amicable solution in order to put an end to ongoing power struggle.

Most recently, Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al Faisal urged the United Nations to accept the Palestinians’ request for full membership in the world body and to recognize it as an independent state. ‘As a result of the continued Israeli intransigence and disruption of the peace process, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls upon all member states of the United Nations to state of Palestine on the border of June 4, 1967 with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to grant it full membership of the United Nations,’ Faisal said. It is hoped that Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister’s comments would add to the pressure on USA, which has vowed to veto the Palestinian UN membership application that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas delivered to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

In recent times, Saudi Arabia’s joint venture with United Arab Emirates (UAE) to maintain law and order situation in Bahrain by sending troops has changed the security dynamics of the entire region. Saudi Arabia leading role for the protection of Bahrain national sovereignty was the paradigm shift in its regional as well as foreign policies. It had far reaching regional geo-political and geo-strategic repercussions. Self-defence is the best defence and disharmony among the friends always brings destruction. In case of Bahrain the government of Saudi Arabia filled the power vacuum and conveyed a strong message to infiltrators to stay away from any misleading posture. Moreover, the successful operation of the Saudis in Bahrain reestablished its leading position and upheld its profound stature in the GCC and the MENA region. It is hoped that it would create a new balance of power in the region.

Riyadh encouraged strategic expansion of the GCC by allowing Jordan and Morocco to join the GCC. Saudi Arabia and UAE played leading role in the recently, held 120th GCC ministerial session under the chairmanship of UAE Foreign Minister HH Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Jeddah and extended its financial support to Jordan and Morocco (the potential candidates in the GCC). It is hoped that Saudi Arabia’s diversified but integrated proactive endeavors and purposeful policy initiatives would succeeded to create strategic equilibrium in the region in the days to come.

Right from the beginning Saudi Arabia has been following neutrality and passive foreign and regional policies. The Yemen War in the late 1960s, the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the last but not the least the Camp David Accord with Israel in 1978, Saudis have always been keen to keep a low profile in the regional power politics. Even the Iranian revolution in 1979 could not change its foreign policy strategic priorities.

The former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979 brought drastic change in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy and afterward, it pledged to support the Afghan Mujahideen (the angles of God) to expel the invaders. The Iraq-Iran war 1980 established, Saudi Arabia’s mediatory role in the regional power politics. Saddam Hussain misadventure to Kuwait 1990 forced Saudis to request for international forces to intervene and defuse the tensions. In 1990s, Saudi succeeded to play stabilizer role in the region through the Syrian-Egyptian-Saudi tripartite axis.

The 2000s brought tremendous changes in its national priorities, regional commitments and international vested interest. The tragic episode of 9/11 and the US invasion in Iraq (2003) and afterward military engagement in Afghanistan (2002) raised levels of discomfort and disharmony between the USA and Saudi Arabia.

The leadership of the Saudi Arabia introduced “Dialogue between the Civilizations” for achieving greater peace and harmony in the world. It was the logical reply of Samuel P. Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations Theory” which proved to be ice-breaker. Now during the ongoing so-called Arab Spring the Saudi Arabia government initiated meaningful policy measures and adopted a more predominated role in the region which reinforced its leadership traits.

Now the levels of distrust and disharmony is widening on the issue of Palestine’s UN membership between the Riyadh and Washington. Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi ambassador to the US warned the US against vetoing the proposed Arab bid for UN recognition of a Palestinian state in September 2011. He was of the opinion that such a move would have disastrous consequences on the US-Saudi relations. He promised to extend all political, moral and diplomatic support for a Palestinian cause. King Abdullah initiated the Arab Peace Initiative in 2002 which called for an end to the conflict based on land for peace.

Saudi Arabia’s use of its vast financial resources in maintaining stability, both domestically and in the neighbourhood, has enhanced its global image. Recently, the King Abdullah’s announced US$130 billion (Dh477.45bn) package in the country which hopefully will bring greater socio-economic prosperity and welfare at brisk pace. To mitigate the spillover consequences of the highly projected Arab Spring, Riyadh provided Cairo financial assistance of worth $4 billion. 3 million barrels of oil to Yemen of worth some $300 million; $10bn promised to each of Bahrain and Oman; and $400m to Jordan shows its larger commitment towards the prosperity and integrity of the region. Moreover, its healthy and supportive role in Syria and Lebanon achieved tremendous success.

Saudi Arabia has strong political will and commitment towards the wellbeing of Muslim Ummah. Being the essential part of its foreign policy its massive humanitarian assistance and relief efforts will likely to continue in the days to come. Undoubtedly, the rulers of Saudi Arabia i.e. the Al Saud has played marvelous role to safeguarded the best interests of its country and achieved sustainable development. By investing in their own socio-economic infrastructure, optimal utilization of its huge natural and financial resources to assist Muslim world at large especially Arab States that faced grave political uncertainties, worsening law and order situation and propel foreign assets to secure best returns, the Saudi Arabia has succeeded to position itself as one of the important country in the world and moreover, secured central place in GCC, MENA and G20.

Recently, the King Abdullah’s announced US$130 billion (Dh477.45bn) package in the country which hopefully will bring greater socio-economic prosperity and welfare. Saudi Arabia is also extending financial assistance to the GCC states. 3 million barrels of oil to Yemen of worth some $300 million; $10bn promised to each of Bahrain and Oman; $4bn to Egypt; and $400m to Jordan shows its larger commitment towards the prosperity, integrity and collaboration with the GCC and MENA region.

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