Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Several weeks ago I wrote about how Saudi Arabia is positioning itself as the leader of the Middle East, and what it wants to accomplish.

Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Princess Reema bint Bandar Al Saud, at the Aspen Ideas Festival this past weekend, described the vision in more detail - including where Israel fits in.

“We want to see a thriving Israel,” she said. “We want to see a thriving Palestine. Vision 2030 talks about a unified, integrated, thriving Middle East and last I checked, Israel was there. We want a thriving Red Sea economy.”

The princess continued. “We don’t say normalization, we talk about an integrated Middle East, unified [as] a bloc like Europe, where we all have sovereign rights and sovereign states, but we have a shared and common interest. So that’s not normalization. Normalization is you’re sitting there, and I’m sitting here, and we kind of coexist, but separately. Integration means our people collaborate, our businesses collaborate, and our youth thrive.”

The Saudi vision is to have a unified Middle East bloc of nations where there is not so much dependence on superpowers. It wants to eliminate the infighting. And it wants to lead, by promoting the benefits to all - under the beneficence of Saudi Arabian cash.

The new Saudi Arabia wants not to oppose states like Syria and Iran, but to subsume them. 
Diplomacy with Iran, Princess Reema continued, provides “another way” to deescalate tensions in the region. “You do not want a nuclear Iran pointing itself at the rest of us,” she said. “You don’t want us poking and prodding. You don’t want Israel poking and prodding. You don’t want the Iranians aiming at Israel. You don’t want any of that.”

The ambassador defended Saudi efforts to reintegrate Syria into the Arab world, explaining that the kingdom is using available avenues to bring humanitarian relief to the war-torn country. The war in Syria, she said, has gone on for “12 years, where it’s not just a war zone, the country is [in] shambles. We cannot have another failed state in the Middle East. It is unreasonable to let it happen. And so the question is, what do you do? And that’s what we’re trying to solve for today.”
The Saudis seem to be waving the carrot of going beyond normalization to Israel's long-standing dream of being fully integrated in the region. While Reema said that Saudi Arabia would “always come to the U.S. first” when it needs for new technology, it sounds like it wants to go to Israel second, to make the Middle East an independent world power. 

I do not see Egypt being included in any of these Saudi plans. Maybe they are part of it, or maybe the Saudis consider Egypt to be an African leader, not a Middle East leader. 

My long-shot prediction is that Saudi Arabia will try to work on the Lebanese issue. They desperately need cash to not become a failed state, and the people dislike Hezbollah and Iran. While Lebanon's problems may seem intractable, if the Saudis could help get it over the current hump, it could marginalize the Shiite threat and even pave a way for Lebanese/Israeli peace. The Saudis might not want to do this publicly, because failure would look bad and the chances of success are low, but I wouldn't be surprised if they look at Lebanon as a key to show their leadership and their vision of a unified Middle East by unifying the most polarized nation in the Middle East. 

As for Saudi Arabia's traditional Sunni Islamic conservatism and how it has been difficult to coexist with Shiites, Christians and Jews: the princess' short sleeves and leaving much of her hair uncovered is just as much a message to the other groups in the region as her words are. 

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

This blog may be a labor of love for me, but it takes a lot of effort, time and money. For over 19 years and 40,000 articles I have been providing accurate, original news that would have remained unnoticed. I've written hundreds of scoops and sometimes my reporting ends up making a real difference. I appreciate any donations you can give to keep this blog going.


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