Saudi Arabia's emerging role in Mideast peace efforts: Prince MBS and Biden to become partners?

Written by Jeppe W

Dec.04 - 2023 11:44 AM CET


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There is growing speculation about Saudi Arabia's potential role in containing regional conflicts, particularly in light of recent events and shifting U.S. foreign policy under President Joe Biden, according to Newsweek and other media.

This comes amid escalating tensions following Houthi attacks in the Red Sea, which have raised concerns about the potential expansion of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

U.S. officials are increasingly viewing the involvement of Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), as a potential positive development. The hope in Washington is that the Saudi government could unite a coalition of moderate Arab states against Iran-backed groups like Hamas, working jointly with the United States.

This marks a significant shift in the Biden administration's approach to Saudi Arabia. Despite Biden's earlier promises to hold the kingdom accountable for various contentious issues, including the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and its human rights record, recent interactions suggest a strategic realignment.

Notably, Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2022 and meeting with MBS underscored this change, with U.S. efforts to broker normalized relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel and enlisting Saudi help in dealing with Hamas.

However, the situation is complex. Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a conflict with the Houthis in Yemen since March 2015, leading to widespread civilian casualties and humanitarian crises.

Despite Biden announcing an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen, the dynamics in the region remain volatile.

Recent developments have further complicated the scenario.

A ceasefire in Yemen, brokered in April 2022, has been strained by ongoing conflicts, including attacks by the Houthis in the Red Sea and a U.S. Navy destroyer. Houthi spokesperson Yahya Sarea has declared intentions to continue targeting Israeli and allied ships until the situation in Gaza is resolved.

The response from Arab states has been cautious, with concerns about escalating conflict with Iran and potential domestic unrest.

However, the possibility of Saudi Arabia playing a more prominent role in regional diplomacy is being viewed with cautious optimism in some quarters. Riyadh's potential involvement in Gaza's reconstruction and efforts to find peace in Yemen are seen as opportunities for the kingdom to assert its influence and contribute to regional stability.

In recent meetings, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other officials have discussed strategies to prevent further conflict escalation, emphasizing humanitarian aid and long-term peace solutions.

The evolving situation suggests a realignment of alliances and strategies in the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia potentially emerging as a key player in efforts to contain and resolve regional conflicts.