by Con Coughlin
Nothing better illustrates the utter ineptitude of the Biden administration’s dealings with the Middle East than Saudi Arabia’s decision to forge a strategic alliance with China.
This is a time when Washington should be working overtime to strengthen its ties with long-standing allies like the Saudis to combat the mounting threat Iran poses to the region’s security.
Apart from the deeply alarming progress the ayatollahs are said to be making with their efforts to produce nuclear weapons,
The new “axis of evil” that has been formed between Moscow and Tehran in recent months means Iran will soon be taking delivery of state-of-the-art Russian warplanes to add to its military arsenal.
In what both the White House and Downing Street described as “sordid deals” between the two countries, Iran is due to take delivery of Russian Su-35 fighter jets next year as well as other advanced military equipment and components, including helicopters and air defence systems. In return Iran is providing Russia with hundreds of its Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 so-called kamikaze drones, which self-destruct on hitting their target.
As US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby explained at a briefing in Washington, Moscow has “offered Iran an unprecedented level of military and technical support”, which “transforms their relationship into a full defense partnership”.
Biden administration officials added that Iranian pilots were already being trained in Russia on how to fly the Su-35 fighter.
By any standard, the deepening military cooperation between Russia and Iran should serve as a wake-up call to the Biden administration to redouble its efforts to reaffirm its commitment to key allies in the region such as the Saudis, who are committed to resisting any attempt by Tehran to expand its malign influence in the region.
Riyadh’s determination to resist Iran’s aggressive conduct was reflected in recent comments made by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud who warned that “all bets are off” if Iran succeeds in its goal of acquiring an operational nuclear weapon.
“We are in a very dangerous space in the region… you can expect that regional states will certainly look towards how they can ensure their own security,” he said.
Riyadh’s robust approach to Iran’s bellicose conduct is exactly the sort of response Washington needs to see from its allies as it faces up to the Iranian threat. Yet, thanks to the Biden administration’s wilful neglect of its relations with the Saudis, Riyadh is instead looking to build a partnership with Beijing, as was evident from the lavish reception given to Chinese President Xi Jinping during his state visit to the kingdom this month.
Rarely has a visiting leader been the recipient of such lavish state pageantry as Xi after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman spared no effort to afford the Chinese leader a warm welcome, which included a jet escort on his arrival.
During his three-day visit, Xi held extensive talks with the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, as well as other senior Saudi officials and signed a strategic partnership agreement that will deepen ties between Riyadh and Beijing on a range of issues, from defence to technology.
One particularly eye-catching aspect of the agreement was a deal with the Chinese tech giant Huawei to supply the Saudis with cloud computing services and allow “high-tech” complexes to be built in Saudi cities, according to Saudi officials.
Huawei has been designated a potential security threat by the US, with intelligence officials claiming that the company has close links to China’s ruling Communist Party and could be used to conduct spying operations.
That Riyadh is now moving away from its traditional alliance with the US and strengthening its ties with Beijing is a strategic disaster of epic proportions, and serves as a damning indictment of the Biden administration’s careless treatment of the Saudis, for which the president is personally to blame.
Biden set the tone for his strained relationship with the Saudi royal family during the 2020 presidential election contest when he denounced the kingdom as a “pariah” state over its involvement in the murder of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in 2018, although there has never any audible distress from the Biden administration over Iran’s 2007 abduction and presumed deathof ex-FBI agent Robert Levinson.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, though, forced Biden to rethink his attitude towards the Saudis when it suddenly dawned on him that he needed the Saudis to increase oil supplies to ease the pressure on global prices.
His efforts achieved little: the Saudis were apparently unimpressed with Biden greeting the Crown Prince with a fist-bump when he visited the kingdom in the summer, and he came away empty-handed, with the Saudis and other Gulf states ignoring his plea to increase oil production.
Apart from being dismayed about Biden’s obsession with reviving the controversial nuclear deal with Tehran, which they regard as a flawed agreement — it allows the Iranian regime soon to build as many nuclear weapons as it likes as well, as the ballistic missiles to deliver them — the Saudis and other Gulf leaders are unhappy with the lack of support they have received from Washington over the constant threat they face from Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen, whom Secretary of State Antony Blinken removed from the US list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations just a few weeks into Biden’s term, and who since then regularly fired Iranian-made missiles and drones into Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Now, thanks to Biden’s incompetent management of the US-Saudi relationship, Riyadh is looking to China to protect its interests, a move that confirms the alarming decline in US influence in the region that has taken place under the vacuum in Biden’s leadership.
Source: Gatestone Institute