THE NEW WORLD ORDER: WHERE DOES SAUDI ARABIA STAND? LESSONS FROM THE ARAB LEAGUE SUMMIT

upa-admin 04 Haziran 2023 909 Okunma 0
THE NEW WORLD ORDER: WHERE DOES SAUDI ARABIA STAND? LESSONS FROM THE ARAB LEAGUE SUMMIT

Introduction

The Arab League summit took place in the city of Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on May 19, 2023. King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, His Royal Highness Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Crown Prince and Prime Minister and “the first of the grandsons of Ibn Saud, the founder of the kingdom, to move on to the line of succession” (Koç, n.d.) chaired the 32nd Regular Session of the Arab League Council at the Summit Level. Unprecedentedly, the summit marked a turning point in the relations between Arab states as several points of historical disagreements were addressed during the meeting. Similarly, it had a number of promising outcomes that not only regulate regional (Middle Eastern), but also international rivalries that concerned the international world order. Still, the question lingers; Is it another diplomatic affiliation with camouflage or the promising Saudi leadership of the Arab world would end up bringing about stability and prosperity to the MENA region?

In this piece, as the dust settles from the summit, we will dissect these outcomes and evaluate whether they suggest a new era of prosperity or merely political posturing.

According to the SPA (Saudi Press Agency), the text of the declaration displayed 11 points that concern the mediating role of Saudi Arabia within the regional (Middle Eastern) tensions. Atop the agenda, it is easy to identify the parameters that define the shifting role of Saudi Arabia in addressing the geopolitical tensions in the region of MENA, resorting to a younger and fresher diplomatic mediation than resorting to means of high politics. This aspect of playing diplomatic bridging has been a cornerstone of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy for decades and it is more emphasized today than ever before under the leadership of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

This new approach to the country’s pivotal role in the region signals the gradual emergence of the “new ‘power centre’ of the Saudi palace” (Koç, n.d.) enshrined in a number of carefully crafted measures such as a shift away from traditional reliance on the United States and towards a more independent foreign policy, increased focus on regional stability, and an effort to address pressing regional challenges through diplomatic means.

The Saudi promising leadership: An Umbrella to safeguarding the peace in the “New” Middle East

This summit unequivocally demonstrates the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s aspirations to assume a leadership role in shaping and directing the course of the Arab world. Concurrently, the Kingdom seeks to strategically position itself on the geopolitical map which underwent great reshaping from 2011 onwards while maintaining close ties to the American axis. Nevertheless, Muhammad Bin Salman’s close relations with American leaders, policymakers as well as business circles have contributed to forming a legitimising basis both for his growing role within the intra-Saudi political elites (Koç, n.d.).

Within this context, it becomes apparent that the new policy trajectory embraced by the Kingdom, under the stewardship of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, centres around a deliberate and incremental approach—namely, multilateralism. This approach has been emphasized during his inaugural speech during the 32nd Arab League summit as he maintained that the Saudi authorities “assure the neighbouring countries and friends in the West and the East that we are moving forward for peace, goodness, cooperation, and construction in a way that achieves our peoples’ interests and safeguards our nation’s rights” (Saudi Press Agency, 2023). Nevertheless, it is essential to maintain that “the Salman doctrine is based on a very concrete interpretation of the facts, both of the response given by King Abdullah and the consequences originated after these years of convulsion and instability” (Del Miño and Martínez, 2022).

The novelty of Saudi Arabia’s official policies, as exemplified by the visionary “Saudi 2030″ project, necessitates a repositioning on both the international geopolitical stage and within the Middle Eastern and Arab region. The current Saudi administration has been acutely mindful of the lessons derived from past historical rivalries, most notably the entanglement in the Yemeni conflict. This recognition has spurred the younger generation of Saudi leadership to seriously contemplate the adoption of a multilateral approach and a pacific zero-problem policy with neighbouring nations such as Iran. Such a shift aims to safeguard their economic framework, which heavily relies on the utilization of natural resources such as oil and gas, from potential vulnerabilities.

One of the noteworthy and auspicious ramifications of these newly adopted policies is the Saudi administration’s concerted effort to transition the Kingdom away from its traditional, arbitrary economic model towards a more robust and structured framework. This strategic shift entails reducing excessive dependence on natural resources and pursuing alternative avenues for sustainable economic growth and prosperity. By diversifying the economic landscape, Saudi Arabia aims to create a more resilient and thriving economy that is less susceptible to the fluctuations and vulnerabilities associated with reliance solely on natural resources. This transformative endeavour holds the promise of unlocking new opportunities and unleashing the full potential of the country’s economic prowess.

The Jeddah Declaration

The Jeddah Declaration is considered a significant milestone towards putting an end to the violence that erupted in Sudan as it “calls to commit to protecting civilians and facilitating humanitarian action“. It has been signed by the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on May 11, 2023 (Saudi Press Agency, 2023). The agreement was mediated by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia only as an initial step on both sides towards a ceasefire, the withdrawal of forces from civilian areas. In essence, it puts emphasis on the paramount importance allocated by the means of strengthening joint “Arab action” based on common foundations, values, and interests.

The agreement was signed in response to “the ongoing fighting since April 15, 2023, in particular in the capital of Khartoum, responding to urgent humanitarian needs of our civilian citizens” (“Jeddah Declaration of Commitment to Protect the Civilians of Sudan – United States Department of State”, 2023). As a matter of fact, “the confirmed death toll in Sudan has now passed 420, including 264 civilians and more than 3,700 people have been wounded, according to local and international NGOs” (Burke, Salih, and Ahmed, 2023). Even though the implications of the Jeddah Declaration have not been yet tangible or had any translations, in actuality it still safeguards a long-standing imprint for the young Saudi Prince Crown’s Strategy for the Saudi 2030 project and allocates more seriousness and consideration to the role of the Saudi Arabia in the “New Middle East”.

Bashar al-Assad

Bashar al-Assad’s attendance at the Arab League summit in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, marks a new era of peace-building capacities of the major forces in the Middle East Zone. Moreover, Syria’s rejoining of the Arab League is a significant event that marks a major shift in the region’s attitude towards the Syrian state after the revolutionary civil war that took place by the dawn of the year 2011. It is essential to remember that Syria was suspended from the Arab League in the same year “over its failure to end the bloodshed caused by brutal government crackdowns on pro-democracy protests” (Batty and Shenker, 2011). Saudi Arabia backed a few of the rebel organizations engaged in combat against President al-Assad’s rule with funding and weapons supplied in coordination with the United States. In the context of the new stance of the KSA, the presence of President al-Assad during this summit emitted a number of messages to world powercentres, exemplified by the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China. In fact, the presence of President al-Assad comes into existence originally thanks to the Algerian efforts that have been vested during the 31st summit that was held in Algiers in November 2022. The obvious implication of readdressing the Arab attitude towards Syria is surely best exemplified in the normalization of the relations with the Al-Assad regime once again after a long decade of political repulsion in the region. Additionally, it earmarks the end of a bitter transitology in the Arab governance that failed substantively with Tunisia as the one and only example of triumph.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s attendance at the Arab League Summit

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s attendance at the Arab League summit is also considered a significant event as it is a novelty in the league’s history to host a President of a non-arab nation. President Zelensky’s unsuccessful dramatic performance was considered a failing appeal for support from Arab countries. In actuality, Zelensky’s speech addressed the importance of peace and security in the region, and he called upon the delegates of Arab countries to stand with Ukraine and provide assistance to Ukrainian refugees. In this context, the “Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expressed his readiness to mediate in the war between Moscow and Kyiv” (CBC, 2023). Zelensky seemed to poorly canvass military support from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with referring to the difficult history of invasion and occupation in the Arab East. It seems that President Zelensky is continuing to break the inter-state agreements with Moscow and bringing the world on the edge of hazardous nuclear threats. Similarly, he also invoked during his speech the “agony” endured by Muslim ethnic Tatars living in Crimea during Russian control which seems to be an eerie and desperate tactic to play upon the consciousness of the Arab people.

Conclusion

In summation, the text examines the Arab League Summit held as well as evaluates Saudi Arabia’s emerging leadership of Crown Prince Mohamad Bin Salman in shaping the new Middle East. It investigates the kingdom’s efforts to mediate regional tensions, pursues a more independent foreign policy, and adopts a multilateral approach to address challenges. Furthermore, it acknowledges the Saudi focus on economic diversification and sustainable growth. The summit’s outcomes, such as the Jeddah Declaration to end violence in Sudan, signify Saudi Arabia’s commitment to fostering peace and stability in the region. The attendance of Bashar al-Assad and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky further exemplifies the kingdom’s diplomatic reach and willingness to engage with key regional and international actors.

Marwene Ben JENNANA

BIBLIOGRAPHY

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