Did Biden really get what he wanted from the Saudis? - TAHA KILINÇ

Did Biden really get what he wanted from the Saudis?

After meeting with Soviet Union leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Yalta, the port city on the Crimean Peninsula between 4-11 Feb 1945, then U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt moved to Egypt quickly.

President Roosevelt, who moved to the American battleship USS Quincy, which was moored in Bitter Lake on the Suez Canal, was hosting an important guest with whom he had intense contact for a while: King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia.

King Abdulaziz, who never left his country and never left the Arabian Peninsula during his long life, was brought to Bitter Lake aboard another American ship, the USS Murphy, which docked at the port of Jeddah in the Red Sea. The King was accompanied by a large delegation of 48 people. The Americans made careful preparations for this meeting, which would soon become one of the turning points in recent history. All the details, from the carpets on the floor to the treats, from the gifts to the words in the dialogues, had been studied for weeks, and the regional experts of the American State Department had made great efforts to avoid any blunders.

The Roosevelt-Abdulaziz meeting is accepted as the beginning of the strategic partnership of Saudi Arabia with the U.S. in economic (and political) terms, which was revealed to be sitting on a giant oil bed in 1938. On that day, an American president in a wheelchair and a war-weary Bedouin king, who was in the last days of his life, took the first step of deep cooperation that would mark the next decades of their respective countries.

The most interesting detail of the meeting was King Abdulaziz's request from President Roosevelt to "stop the Jewish influx into Palestine" in return for handing over the Saudi oil concession to the United States. Roosevelt, who had no sympathy for Zionism at all, accepted this "request", but in return made a request from the Saudis himself: "You too, promise not to use oil as a weapon in international relations." The minutes show that the President and the King made mutual commitments to each other. However, when Roosevelt died suddenly on April 12, about 2 months after this meeting, the addressee of the word "stopping Jewish immigration to Palestine" disappeared. The oil embargo initiated by Faisal, the second son of Abdulaziz, against the U.S. and Western countries that support Israel, together with the Yom Kippur War in 1973, was a "violation" of the commitment from the Saudi front. King Faisal paid the price of this violation with his life on 25 March 1975.

When we look at the course of diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia, it is possible to observe that Riyadh is constantly approaching Washington, especially after the assassination of King Faisal. The period of King Fahd, which lasted from 1982 to 2005, is perhaps a time when this approach reached its peak. The status quo remained unchanged during the 10-year reign of his brother King Abdullah, who succeeded him after Fahd. Although the Saudi Arabian and Gulf connections of the participants in the September 11, 2001 attacks caused fluctuations in the relations between the two countries, there is no doubt that the parties still see each other as "strategic partners". It should be underlined that Prince Turki al-Faisal, who led the Saudi Arabian intelligence from 1979 to 2001, and Prince Saud al-Faisal, who served as foreign minister of his country from 1975 to his death in 2015, played a key role in relations with the United States. However, the important point here is that both princes are the sons of King Faisal, who was assassinated after tensions mounted with the U.S.

The period of King Abdullah's brother, Salman bin Abdulaziz, who ascended to the throne in 2015 after the death of King Abdullah, seems to be remembered as a time when relations between the U.S. and Washington changed course. Perhaps the most striking indicator of this situation was the lukewarm treatment given by the Saudis to U.S. President Joe Biden, who came to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, to attend the "Security and Development Summit" over the weekend. With his advancing age, the blunders he signed, and the disorganization in his management style, Biden, who was on his way to becoming one of the weakest presidents in American history, has also become a symbol of the shift in the Washington-Riyadh axis. While the U.S., which had a hard time holding on against formidable opponents such as Russia and China, was losing ground in the Middle East, the Saudi delegation sitting on the other side of the table had a louder voice than their American counterparts.

While the American press at home asked: "What did Biden get during his visit to Saudi Arabia?", the Gulf front led by the Saudis has already gotten what it wanted: to show the whole world that the winds are blowing in a different direction for the U.S.


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