Saudi Arabia has been under a lot of pressure since the terrorists’ attacks of September 11th. In fact, the kingdom’s foreign policy is being constantly challenged by events like the war on terrorism, Afghanistan, Middle East conflict and the war on Iraq. The international interest in Saudi Arabia made the ruling family change its restraint in its foreign policy and have amore active position regarding regional issues. Its main priority remains to guarantee the stability in the region and to maintain a status quo in order to avoid any negative impact on domestic affairs. For this last reason, and in order to ensure the regime stability along with the safety of petrol exports, Saudi Arabia developed close ties with the United States. This “strategic alliance” andthe introduction of American military bases in the kingdom gave voice to opposition movements inside and outside the country. However, and with the fall of Saddam’s regime in Iraq, the US is giving up military bases in Saudi Arabia that are no longer strategically necessary, which puts the Saudi/US relations in a transitional phase. Iran constitutes another major point in the Saudi foreignpolicy. After the rise of Khomeini and its Islamic republic, both countries engaged in hostile actions towards each other. For the kingdom, it is an imminent threat to have a revolutionary government next door that calls for a revolution against the ruling families in all Muslim monarchies. Beside the Arab Israeli conflict, the Saudi foreign policy is centered on three major themes: regionalsecurity, Arab nationalism and Islam. This paper deals with all the three discourses alongside the Saudi relations with the US, which are considered to be a key element in their foreign policy.
The primary foreign policy goal of Saudi Arabia is to maintain security and political stability in the Middle East region, especially the area that surrounds the Arabian Peninsula.And for this reason, Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy focused on its two most important neighbors, i.e. Iraq and Iran. To counter each one’s growing power, the kingdom alternated friendly and hostile attitudes with each one of them. From a realist perspective, that is only normal since the country has to preserve its status as a major power in the region by forming alliances with each one in a time.Saudi Arabia and Iraq:
After the fall of Saddam’s regime, the relations between Saudi Arabia and its northern neighbor used to vacillate from tensions to alliances to war (U.S. Library of Congress). In the 60’s and the 70’s, when the ruling family suspected Iraq of supporting opposition movements against Saudi interests inside and outside the kingdom, it in its turn developed strong tieswith states like Iran, Syria, Kuwait and the United States (U.S. Library of Congress). As a result, Saudi Arabia held tense relations with Iraq until 1975, when this latter stopped its aggressive foreign policy towards Riyadh. By the time of the Iranian Islamic revolution, Saudi Arabia supported Iraq in its war against Iran because it was more afraid of Iranian revolutionary power. Bothcountries allied against the rise of Khomeini to power since they both felt threatened by the rise of shi’i movements in their respective countries. This perfectly fits into the realist model, which argues that national security tops the foreign agenda of the country. For the sake of the country’s survival, the ruling family alternated allies in order to maintain the balance of power in the region. Inhis article “Deconstructing the U.S.-Saudi Partnership” James A. Russell follows a realist explanation of Saudi attitude during the Iraq/Iran war in 1980. He argues that “despite its support for Iraq, Saudi Arabia, like many other states in the region, hoped that the war would decimate both belligerents. For while an Iranian victory would accelerate the crusading, militant, political and...
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