Stronger US-Saudi Alliance – This is the Time

Posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2022
by AMAC, Robert B. Charles

President Biden will visit longtime American ally Saudi Arabia next month. The trip is overdue, reasons obvious, differences over human rights, progress toward democracy, and regional conflict secondary – to firming up the security alliance.

Ironic is one word for how Biden behaves. As Vice President, he helped his family ink millions in shadowy deals with human rights offender Communist China, plus Ukraine. He denied ever discussing the issue with his son, while flying him to both locations on Air Force Two.

When a Ukrainian prosecutor began investigating the company his son was part of, Biden – then Vice President – threatened the prosecutor, demanded that he be removed, and was proud of both.

As Senator, he met with war criminals, including Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, for several hours. He then called President Bush’s meeting with the Israeli Knesset “bulls**t.”

Biden pushed for close relations with Communist Cuba, responsible for the death of countless innocents and suppression of millions, summarily reversing President Trump’s anti-communist sanctions. Biden offered Putin a “minor incursion” in Ukraine, which produced a massive war.

After President Trump flew to Riyadh and inspired 80 Arab and Israeli leaders to focus on peace, then created a new paradigm for Mideast security, trade ,and peace with the Abraham Accords, Biden scoffed.

Bob Gates, former Defense Secretary and CIA head, wrote Biden got just about every foreign policy decision he ever made wrong. He doubled down in 2021. Not to disappoint, Biden has kept on going – cowering to the Taliban, leaving 100,000 allies to whom the US military and State Department promised safety, behind to die in Afghanistan.

Biden has repeatedly covered his ignorance, failed planning, and dissembling with flippancy, anger, misstatements, and pretend principle, only to reverse course – when he sees fibbing does not sell.

So, here we are again. The United States has had a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia for more than half a century. They were pivotal to early US advantage – beginning all the way back in 1945, when US President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with then-Saudi King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud. The meeting was pathbreaking, vital on everything from oil and wartime support to post-war geopolitical cooperation. It set in motion the next three-quarters of a century – and, decades later, helped guide the two nations to closeness through the Cold War.

In time, the relationship grew stronger, with the US benefiting from Saudi oil and anti-communist positions, the US enhancing trade, providing arms for regional security, and eventually helping Israel remain secure within the region. In time, King Saud came to power in 1953, and following FDR’s example, President John F. Kennedy met with him in 1962.

With Nixon as President, arms sales to Saudi jumped from $16 million to $312 million, a reflection of trust and stability not a regional war. Under King Faisal, 1973 was rough when the Saudis joined an oil embargo of the West, but this passed.

In 1974, the US signed another security pact, and by 1975, arms sold topped $2 billion, including fighters. By 1979, security, protection of oil markets, and anti-communist sentiment were solid. Jimmy Carter sent F-15s to the Saudis. 

Later, Ronald Reagan provided AWACs and other arms. Interestingly, in a quiet passing along of sentiment, Ronald Reagan had Donald Trump at a White House in 1985 with the Saudi king.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the US sent half a million soldiers to Saudi, in part to protect the Kingdom, as well as to free Kuwait. This was under President George HW Bush. More than 5000 troops stayed, although 9/11 set relations back again. Trump helped recover them.

Having heard Saudi gratitude in person after the first Gulf War, spent time on security oversight for Congress in Dhahran, met with Saudi leadership on diplomatic missions, even before serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Colin Powell, the alliance was and is important.

All this brings us to, now.  The key now is that history matters, and the Abraham Peace accords started by Trump are alive – despite Biden’s efforts to minimize, even sideline them. While other issues will need to be discussed, including the future of Palestinians of all religions, they offer the best step forward to a wider regional peace.

This should be – although it may not be – a point of discussion as President Biden sets off for Saudi next month. Also, on the agenda must be how to create a regional security pact that deters, and if necessary, responds to a nuclear Iran.

A nuclear Iran is a boulder that would swamp the region, creating a mad dash among Sunni countries to prepare for a potential nuclear engagement with Iran, or to deter such an event. Wider peace, synchronized with this kind of security accord, would be valuable beyond words.

In the near term, the same Biden who glibly met with murderous Communist Chinese leaders, who met with war criminals in Bosnia, who sang the praises of Communist Cuba, and has been silent on ravages of communists and autocrats globally, should get down off his high horse on Saudi.

Yes, human rights are important and need to be raised, driven home as a US priority. Yes, trade in Saudi oil – which Biden desperately needs now that he shut down much of the US energy sector – is important. Yes, arms sales, as well as a more democratic or liberalizing Saudi are important – and should be acknowledged, encouraged, and advanced. 

But the biggest point Biden should make, is that the two countries – as they have for more than 70 years – have a great deal in common and need each other’s support. They are a buttress against chaos and calamity, as well as Chinese and Russian overreach into the Middle East, and nuclear war. 

The time has come to make real the pledges that have stood the test of decades, and to restart what was recently stopped, in favor of advancing world peace, trade, energy, conventional, and nuclear security. If not now, when?