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

Kissinger’s Depression!

After China mediated Saudi Arabia and Iran’s agreement to reestablish ties, Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius, both of whom defend the policies of former President Barack Obama and current President Joe Biden, published articles centered around the world’s most famous foreign minister, Henry Kissinger.

The two writers reminded us of the historic breakthrough in relations between Washington and Beijing that Kissinger had made through a clandestine visit to China in 1971, which put an end to years of animosity between the two countries. Zakaria describes this achievement as “a remarkable case of historical resonance” and Kissinger’s “greatest diplomatic triumph.”

As for Ignatius, he interviewed Kissinger and began his article by saying: “Henry Kissinger must have a sense of deja vu as he watches China broker a rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran,” referencing Kissinger’s success with China during the Nixon era.

I asked a diplomat who was involved in the process about this. “I don’t think Kissinger feels a sense of déjà vu in as much as he feels depressed,” he told me. He then added that Kissinger “has dedicated his life to keeping Moscow away from Beijing,” and we are seeing them come closer together.

The diplomat also mentioned that US National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski had always cautioned that nothing could be more dangerous than Russia and China coming together in Eurasia. “With Iran, a third player has been added to the mix.”

As far as Saudi Arabia is concerned, genuine interests link it to China and Russia. These shared interests were imposed by the political recalibration of Riyadh, which began the announcement of the AlUla Agreement. They have been reinforced by the world’s current state of affairs, the most prominent feature of which is the Ukraine war. Saudi Arabia cannot be reproached, as even the French President has announced his intention to enhance the prospects for peace in Ukraine by turning to China.

The French President’s visit attests to the soundness of Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy. I do not favor labeling it “zeroing problems,” as one cannot have a problem-free foreign policy. The language of politics is one of interests, and it is currently in Riyadh’s interest to ensure the success of its historical initiative, Vision 2030.

As for my sources, they tell me that Beijing is expanding “diplomatically.” It is doing so without military bases or political dictates, taking the opposite approach of US foreign policy, one that Zakaria is now advocating and that we and the levelheaded have argued in favor of since Obama’s term in office.

Zakaria says that China’s mediation of the deal between Saudi Arabia and Iran “exposes a deep-seated flaw in American foreign policy, one that has gotten worse in recent years.” I believe that this flaw began to emerge during George W. Bush’s term and became stronger under Obama. It has now deepened. The most basic example is the shameful US withdrawal from Afghanistan, which cost Washington its credibility.

Zakaria adds that Washington has “lost {its} flexibility and suppleness” and that US foreign policy “consists of grand moral declarations that divide the world into black and white,” with sanctions and damaging legislation constantly readily threatened. This has made “the political atmosphere so charged that merely talking with a “foe” becomes risky.”

He also argues that “America’s unipolar status has corrupted the country’s foreign policy elite” and that US foreign policy “is all too often an exercise in making demands and issuing threats and condemnations,” while divergent perspectives and compromise are absent.

To sum up, this is not to suggest that the United States is done for or to argue for replacing; rather, I am saying that we all remember the unfair criticism leveled at the countries seeking moderation led by Saudi Arabia and that Washington’s “elite” has now woken up to the fact that such criticism only applies to their own foreign policy, not that of our countries. Thus, we cannot blame Kissinger if he has become depressed so late in his life.