Dr. Abdulaziz bin Othman bin Sager
Founder and chairman of the Gulf Research Center

Blinken’s Visit to Saudi Arabia and the Expected Solutions

The upcoming visit of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Saudi Arabia comes as part of a fourth tour in the region since the outbreak of the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip on Oct. 7.
This trip comes amidst regional confusion caused by the Israeli war on Gaza, which claimed the lives of thousands of innocent civilians, including many women, children, and the elderly, in violent and arbitrary bombardment on places of worship, hospitals, schools, shelters, and others. It is a blind war that does not proceed according to the laws of warfare.
In light of this entanglement, Blinken’s visit was preceded by American statements about its importance. US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said that this visit will discuss US-Saudi strategic cooperation on regional and global issues and a set of bilateral files, including economic and security cooperation.
Undoubtedly, the Kingdom welcomes any efforts undertaken by the American administration to discuss bilateral cooperation and achieve stability and security in the region, foremost among which is ending the Israeli war on Gaza and the rest of the hotbeds of tension in the region, including the devastating crisis in Sudan and the tampering with the security of the vital international trade artery in the Red Sea. Therefore, we hope Secretary Blinken would carry in his portfolio practical and applicable ideas and adherence to them on the part of Israel and with American guarantees.
Nonetheless, the current visit comes in a different context, as reality has gone beyond talk of calm or introducing aid. The last days have witnessed the expansion of the scope of the war, highlighting fears that have been raised since the first day of the aggression and attempts to attract America again to the region.
The recent developments of targeting Hamas members in Lebanon, events in Iran, the US strike on members of the Nujaba Movement in Iraq, incidents in Syria, and the Houthi actions in the Red Sea, have all expanded the scope of war, portending serious repercussions on the US interests in the region.
I think that among Blinken’s demands is asking the Saudi leadership to exert pressure on Iran, in order to prevent a further expansion of the conflict and threats to the American interests. Washington cannot not respond to any danger to its interests, and at the same time it does not want to get further involved in the region. Thus, it wants to rely on allied and friendly countries.
The security of the Red Sea is another file that will be discussed in light of the Houthi attacks and the threat they pose to commercial interests of the United States and its allies.
It is also expected that Saudi demands will be decisive in calling on the United States to pressure Israel to achieve several goals, namely:
First: Stopping the war in the Gaza Strip and not just a humanitarian truce or exchange of prisoners, but rather a comprehensive halt. There is a Saudi conviction that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is the basis for instability in the region, and this confirms the continued Saudi keenness to present initiatives for a solution since the 1980s and turn them into binding action plans.
Second: The security of the Red Sea is an international responsibility in cooperation with the riparian countries. Therefore, since 2018, Saudi Arabia has called for the establishment of the Council of States bordering the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in Riyadh, and in January 2020, eight countries signed the Council’s founding charter. Those include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. The foreign ministers signed the charter in preparation for presenting it to the leaders of the member states of the Council for approval during a summit meeting to be hosted by Saudi Arabia.
Therefore, there will be a clear Saudi confirmation to the US Secretary of State that the responsibility for security in the Red Sea lies with the riparian countries first, and with a UN-international responsibility in the second place.
Third: Exerting pressure on Israel to prevent it from expanding the scope of the war to other countries, due to its repercussions on the overall security of the region, and to completely stop displacing the population of the Gaza Strip.
Fourth: It is not possible to talk about the post-war phase unless the war stops, and therefore talking about the future of the Gaza Strip depends first on ending the aggression.
I believe it is necessary for Blinken’s visit to be the beginning of a real review of the US administration’s calculations in the Middle East, and for its calculations to be based on bias toward peace, justice, and respect for international law, and on fulfilling the requirements of partnership towards Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.
This partnership was built on mutual respect and cooperation since the meeting of King Abdulaziz Al Saud on Feb. 14, 1945, with former US President Roosevelt on board the cruiser USS Quincy in the Bitter Lakes.
Since that time, the partnership has been established on clear and stable foundations, and this consistency is part of the Kingdom’s approach, which is based on adhering to the peace option. This has been evident since the Kingdom put forward the Fez peace initiative in 1981 and 1982, and then presented the Arab Peace Initiative, which was approved by all Arab countries at the Beirut Summit in 2002.
If the American administration wants Blinken’s visit to Saudi Arabia and the region to succeed, and if it wants to maintain its partnerships in the region, and preserve its role as a sponsor of peace in the Middle East at a time when international forces hostile to Washington are searching for a foothold in the region, it must adhere to neutrality, and not use the region’s interests and future as a card in the upcoming American elections. It must deal with the disease and not with the symptom as it is doing now.
The region’s disease is the failure to resolve the Palestinian issue in a just solution based on comprehensive peace. This solution was proposed by the Arab Peace Initiative, which guarantees peace for Israel and recognition by all Arab countries, in exchange for Israel’s withdrawal from the Arab territories occupied in 1967, and the establishment of a Palestinian state on the borders of June 4, 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In order to stabilize the security of the Red Sea, America must eradicate the threat of the armed militias present at the entrance to the Red Sea. This is what Washington should have done from the beginning, but it failed to eliminate the disease that was about to spread.
Washington must realize that it is not the only player in the region, and that its interests are not limited to the security of Israel only. The US must maintain its relations with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states within a framework of credibility, mutual interests, and fruitful partnership without submission or imposition of wills.
It must be aware that the countries of the region know their interests and can protect them, and are able to deal with all powers in the world within a framework of balanced openness, which they actually practice, without favoring anything other than their interests...
If America realizes these facts and returns to implementing peaceful solutions, in particular the Arab Peace Initiative, it will achieve security for Israel and the peoples of the countries of the region, and it will find the right path to fruitful partnership based on maximizing interests and within a framework of mutual respect without any form of intimidation.