Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Khalid bin Salman and Washington

The tension between Saudi Arabia and the United States is no secret, as are the recent features of rapprochement. It seems that the detente in relations between Riyadh and Washington is taking a different shape and is being prepared slowly.

All this is happening through the remarkable and important visit by Saudi Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman to the United States - where he visited Washington and Tampa - in terms of the nature and level of his meetings there.

It’s the minister’s second trip to Washington in the recent period. While the first was brief, the latest saw extensive discussions to lay a solid ground for what can be agreed upon before any Saudi-American meeting at the leadership level, especially after CNN revealed an upcoming visit by President Joe Biden to Saudi Arabia.

Accordingly, it seems that we are facing an important and new stage in Saudi-American relations, the context of which is drawn according to clear and proactive planning. This is what Prince Khalid bin Salman’s current trip suggests.

As of the time of writing this article, Prince Khalid bin Salman has met with US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, and Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Dr. Colin Cale.

He also met with US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking, as well as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman. Prince Khalid visited the US Central Command headquarters in Tampa, where he met with its chief Commander General Michael Kurilla.

Each meeting, of course, has implications for the future of Saudi-US relations. The expected breakthrough is being prepared over a slow fire, away from vague media leaks and the noise of official statements.

Evidently, some voices are trying to obstruct the strategic reformulation of relations with Washington. These unofficial subversive voices attempt to pass their ideas through some newspaper articles, or through research centers.

However, it is noteworthy that voices have risen in the US, calling for the need to rationally re-evaluate the bilateral ties. These calls are influential and have an impact even among Democrats, not to mention the Republican support for resetting relations with a reliable ally such as the Kingdom.

I asked an insider in Washington, who closely followed up on Prince Khalid’s meetings, about the assessment of the visit.

“My impression is that it was a very successful visit,” he said, on condition of anonymity.

Another well-informed source, who is familiar with the progress of Saudi-American relations, told me about an important matter in Saudi politics, which many do not understand.

He said: “There is what I call the Saudi sense. It is neither arrogance nor emotion.”

He explained: “The Saudi sense is our solid belief that we are on the right path, and that error is possible. If it occurs, it will be corrected, and we wait for others to do so.”

It is my permanent conviction that this is what the desert taught us, no matter how high or low oil prices are.

Saudi Arabia is a rational country and does not rush. This is politics, the language of interests.