Reviews | A new shape for US-Saudi relations

It has been nearly 80 years since my country’s founder, King Abdulaziz, met with President Franklin D. Roosevelt to lay the foundations for a post-war Middle East. Since that day, our two countries have worked together to defeat Soviet communism, ensure global energy security, contain a revolutionary Iran, push Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, and most recently destroy al-Qaeda and ISIS.

But there is still much more that our countries can do together as partners, especially in these very perilous times.

As my country develops, the US-Saudi partnership must also evolve. And that’s why President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Saudi Arabia is so crucial. For our relationship to bring peace and prosperity to our two peoples and to the rest of the world, we must redefine the contours of the next eight decades of this crucial alliance.

The days when the US-Saudi relationship could be defined by the outdated and reductive paradigm of “oil for security” are long gone. The world has changed and the existential dangers we all face, including food and energy security and climate change, cannot be solved without an effective US-Saudi alliance. These priorities must guide the US-Saudi partnership in the 21st century, and we view President Biden’s visit as an important time to lay out our shared vision of how to meet the challenges ahead.

Saudi Arabia today is barely recognizable from how it once looked just five years ago. Today, we are not only a world leader in energy, but also in investment and sustainable development. Through hundreds of billions of dollars of investments in education, technology, economic diversification and green energy, we have launched a transformational agenda that unlocks the enormous potential of our young men and women.

Today, Saudi women enjoy legal guarantees of equal pay and non-discrimination in the workplace. Some Western countries have not taken such measures. Today, Saudi women outnumber men in our higher education institutes. And women represent the same share of entrepreneurs in Saudi Arabia as in the United States. We enter sectors such as construction, mining and the military. We start businesses, become CEOs, and secure high-level government positions, empowered by a government determined to see us succeed. As the first, but not the only, Saudi female ambassador, I can speak first-hand about the new realm of possibility we are establishing. It is a success that we hope others will emulate.

We promote tolerance and inter-religious dialogue to achieve greater stability in the region. And we offer a vision of shared economic prosperity as an alternative to conflict. Saudi Arabia is indeed rethinking the way we express ourselves and engage with the world as a society and as a culture.

Central to our efforts is our partnership with the United States, which is now more important than ever. If managed responsibly, we can together lead a global transition to renewable energy, while catapulting the Middle East into a new hub for global supply chains. We can and must continue our important cooperation in the fight against terrorism, but we must go beyond current efforts. Our work will not be complete if we only suppress terrorists. We must offer the people of this region greater hope for the future, and that is why our redesigned partnership encompasses cooperation from emerging technologies to joint space exploration. Given Saudi Arabia’s status as the cradle of Islam, the repercussions will be felt from Nigeria to Afghanistan.

We envision a future where our region is not bogged down in conflict, but instead focuses on regional economic cooperation, social development and multinational projects that benefit everyone. We want the United States to be part of that future, just as it helped build our nation eight decades ago.

As governments, we need to broaden our thinking to encourage and enrich such collaboration. The challenges of the 21st century are complex, from maintaining international peace and stability to tackling climate change, and we in Saudi Arabia come to the table with ideas. Let us integrate our region’s markets, use the economy to promote friendship among all our neighbors, and show the promise of growth and prosperity as an alternative to the status quo.

The past two years have demonstrated the inherent volatility of our times, from global pandemics to food, energy and supply chain crises. In Saudi Arabia, we approach these challenges with a new mindset. We believe that the global transition to renewable energy can only happen if we all work together to manage this transition in a way that ensures energy security and global economic growth. We have embraced the green energy transition and committed to net zero emissions by 2060, as well as the goal of switching more than half of our energy industry to renewables by the end of this decade. These are commitments once deemed unimaginable for the world’s central oil bank.

At the same time, we also face legacy threats to the international order posed by terrorist states and organizations. US-Saudi efforts to ensure peace and security should focus on improving cooperation and strengthening a rules-based system so that it delivers tangible benefits to all. In this way, we can confront the vision of chaos promoted by Iran with a vision of cooperation that the peoples of the region can see and feel.

I acknowledge, of course, that there have been turbulent waters in US-Saudi relations. Without a doubt, the murder of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi was a horrific atrocity without any justification. But Saudi Arabia has made clear at the highest level our abhorrence of this crime, and justice has been served in our courts with verdicts delivered against all attackers.

We have emerged from this terrible tragedy stronger, with stricter safeguards to ensure that such an atrocity never happens again. We are convinced that our reforms will prove effective because, quite simply, what happened more than three years ago in Istanbul is not who we are. What happened is not what we do. And that cannot define the US-Saudi relationship going forward.

This relationship between our two countries has stood the test of time. History has shown us that the United States and Saudi Arabia have emerged stronger together from every challenge, and the future should be no different. When we are united, we are a tremendous force for good.

Having grown up in the United States as the daughter of an ambassador and having a personal connection to our two nations, I see a horizon of limitless potential in our cooperation. Saudi Arabia sits at the meeting point of three continents – Asia, Europe and Africa – but America is closest to our hearts. Tomorrow, President Biden will see a legendary land with a new, younger face. And we will share with him and with the world Saudi Arabia’s vision of progress and partnership.

I am sure that great crises will await us, some of which we have no means of foreseeing. But our two great nations must face the unknown with confidence. And we must meet today’s greatest challenges – from deadly epidemics and food insecurity to the responsible transition to renewable energy – with the same zeal with which we once contained communist aggression and threats to global energy production. By working together, we can build the future we all dream of, a future our young people can be proud of, a future we all deserve.


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